In Genesis 15:1 the word of the LORD (Yahweh) came to Abram in a “vision” (machazeh).
· Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, " Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great."
In Genesis 20:7 Yahweh calls his servant a “prophet” (nabiy’) when warning king Abimelech to return Abram’s wife Sarai (Sarah).
· Genesis 20:7 “Now therefore, restore the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” NASU
Combining the two passages of scripture above, one might conclude Abram is the first prophet in the Bible because:
A) Genesis 15:1 he receives the word of the LORD through a “vision” (machazeh).
B) Genesis 20:7 he is the first MENTION of a “prophet” using the Hebrew word nabiy’ in this application.
C) When God reveals His future plans, most people consider this to be a “prophecy” (or divine foreknowledge). The man TO WHOM and THROUGH WHOM God divulges this future plan is generally considered to be a “prophet.” This applies to Abram.
To properly study and interpret the contents of the Bible, one must use scripture to interpret scripture. Also, the Old should be seen in light of the New Testament whenever applicable. We will see that Abram is the first mention of a prophet in the OT, but the NT gospel accounts show Abel is actually the first prophet.
Jesus likens the Pharisees, scribes and lawyers to their fathers (ancestors) who killed the prophets, of which Abel is included:
· Luke 11:47-51 “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48 So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’” NASU
Parallel passages of scripture include Matthew 23:27-37, Genesis 4:8, 2 Chronicles 24:20-21 and Zechariah 1:1.
Usually a prophet is an “inspired man” to whom God reveals His plans for the future, as he did when He spoke to Abram, promising to make his descendants a great nation. A prophet is also one through whom God speaks, using him to lead, admonish, teach and even rebuke His consecrated people.
Enough details are given about Abram to understand his calling and function as a prophet, but little information is given regarding Abel. Abel’s life and death further redefines our concepts of a prophet.
Unlike Abram who tended his herds, and also the flock of God, Abel had only the sheep to shepherd. Nevertheless, the Lord had regard and respect for Abel, which made him different than his brother Cain.
The scriptures bear no record of a time when the word of the LORD came to Abel. The account in Genesis 4:1-17 says that Cain was the firstborn of Adam and his wife Eve, and Abel was born after him. As the firstborn son, Cain would have been heir to his father if customs in the east date back to the first humans.
Cain was a tiller of the ground and Abel was a keeper of sheep. Some teach that God was more impressed with Abel’s offering of animal fat than Cain’s offering of his crops. They say Abel’s lamb offering typifies Christ, whereas Cain’s offering typifies a product of the flesh (earth).
The problem with such logic is twofold; first, God is not partial to any man and He looks upon the heart, not the offering itself; second, the Law was hundreds of years away, so there was no specific requirement for the type of offering presented.
Abel tended sheep, so it is probable he offered a lamb; if this were true, the lamb would typify Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
· Genesis 4:4 … And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering.
Notice the Lord had regard “for Abel” not just his offering; Contrawise, for Cain, the Lord had no respect or regard.
· Genesis 4:5 But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed.
The Hebrew word for “regard” is sha`ah (OT: 8159); in the Qal it means, “to gaze at, to regard, to behold, to look about.” The use of sha`ah shows the LORD gazing at Abel as a father would to his favorite son; we would say it this way:
The LORD paid special attention to Abel…
The LORD paid no special attention to Cain…
This is a character issue, not an issue of whose offering was the right or wrong one. Abel’s life pleased Yahweh and Cain’s did not. This marks the beginning of the good seed (Abel) and the serpent’s seed (Cain), according to the word of the Lord to the serpent.
· Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (From New International Version)
Cain felt enmity toward his righteous younger brother Abel; he despised the LORD’S rejection of him and his offering because this was not befitting of Adam’s firstborn son.
· Genesis 4:5-7 So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. 6 And the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” AMP
Abel’s life is prophesying vicariously through that of his dejected brother. The Lord asked Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” This proves Abel WAS doing “well” and that he HAD mastered sin; for this reason, Abel’s sacrifice pleased Yahweh, and he received a favorable gaze from Him.
The Hebrew word for “do well” is, “yatab” (OT: 3190) and in the Hiphil it means, “Do good to; deal well with; make a thing good.” This shows Yahweh was not rejecting Cain outright, but giving him an opportunity to handle the conflict the right way. The prophet Micah echoes this same thought:
· Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Cain is like many Christians today; they want so badly for God to accept what they offer Him from the harvest of their life, yet quite often He rejects their gift because they’ve neglected relationships with their brethren. Jesus said FIRST be reconciled to your brother, and THEN present your offering to God.
· Matthew 5:23-24 “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. NAS
God used the Hebrew word yatab to show Cain he could, “make a thing (his offering) good,” if only he repented, changed his rotten attitude, and was willing to, “do good to” his brother Abel by treating him with love instead of contempt. If Cain had heeded the word of the LORD to him that day, he would be able to, “deal well with” (yatab) the situation. God did not require of Cain more than he was able to bear, but with the temptation, provided him a way of escape, that he might endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Cain’s response to God’s displeasure was anger and blame; many Christians get angry with God, then they blame the ones they love the most! Instead of accepting responsibility for their attitudes and behavior, many husbands and fathers vent their inner venom thru the most unruly member of their body, thus wounding the spirit of their wife and children.
Cain murdered his brother, and in spilling his blood, he unknowingly made Abel the first “lamb” slain, from the foundation of the world.
· Luke 11:50-51 “… so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.”
Not only does Abel’s offering typify Christ, but also his death:
· Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb who has been slain. NASU
Abel’s blood was spilled because he stood for what is right; he was doing God’s will, and as a result, he paid the ultimate price. His name was the first to be scribed in the “book of life,” which is God’s record of all the righteous “seed” of the woman from the foundation of the inhabited earth (world).
The Father is the Author of all life; therefore his record of the righteous is called the book of “life.” The Book of Life signifies all who choose to eat from the spiritual “tree of life,” by walking in truth and love, and doing what is pleasing in His sight.
Cain’s hatred and jealousy is a painful reminder that the wages of sin is DEATH. Abel’s blood is a witness against all whom, like Cain, despise God’s servants and resist His spirit in them.
The Greek word for “lamb” in Revelation 13:8 is “arnion” (NT: 721) and it means “lambkin” or as we would say today, “little lamb.” Arnion is a diminutive of another Greek word “árnas” (NT: 704), which means, “a male lamb.”
In grammar, a diminutive is a word formed from another word, usually a common or generic term, to express a little thing of the kind; as, in Latin, lapillus, a little stone, from lapis; cellula, a little cell, from cella, a cell; in French, maisonnette, a little house, from maison, a house; in English, manikin, a little man, from man.
Technically, arnion actually means, “a little male lamb” (as opposed to a ewe, which is a female lamb). The word árnas, from which arnion is derived, is found only one place in scripture (below):
· Luke 10:1-3 After this the Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs (árnas) among wolves.” (From New International Version)
Jesus sent the 72 men (many Bible versions say 70, but 72 is more accurate). These 72 are sent out as little male lambs (árnas) in the midst of wolves, to share the gospel as laborers in God’s harvest field. Jesus gives them authority to cast our demons and heal the sick; these miraculous works confirm their authority and message. It is in this context that Jesus declares the blood of righteous Abel to be that of a prophet (See Luke chapters 10 & 11).
The “wolves” are the leaders of the Jews and Abel’s blood is a witness against them, because they approve of the murderous deeds of their fathers that killed the OT prophets.
Abel’s blood is a witness from the, “foundation of the world” (Luke 11:50 & Revelation 13:8); his blood testifies of his righteous life and his subsequent death at the hand of his murderous brother against everyone who follows the selfish, blaming, hateful and blasphemous Cain.
Concerning the Pharisees, scribes and lawyers, in Luke 11:48, Jesus said they, “are witnesses and approve the deeds,” of all who murdered the prophets, from the prophet Abel to the prophet Zechariah. The same spirit that motivated Cain actuates their jealousy of him, but it was their unrepentant hearts and hateful plot to murder Jesus that identified them as Cain’s children.
SUMMARY: Abram is the first MENTION of a prophet in Genesis, but ABEL is actually the first prophet. Abel prophesied with his LIFE, not with his words. Yahweh paid special attention (gazing with approval) to Abel; however, He did not pay attention to Cain. Cain became angry and jealous of his younger brother; his rage blinded him, so that instead of heeding Yahweh’s word to “make good” his life and his offering, he murdered Abel in the harvest field.
Abel is the first “male lamb” sent out by God into the world; as such, he is also the (innocent & righteous) male lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Abel’s blood and the blood of all the prophets until Zechariah, is a witness against the leaders of the Jews, because they sought to murder their own Messiah with the same motives as Cain.
Abel’s blood also typifies the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ the ONLY Lamb of God that TAKES AWAY the sins of the world. The blood of Jesus is a propitiation for all who have hope in God.
Abel is one prophet in the Bible that forces the Christian church into a major paradigm shift. He is a prophet without a word spoken; as such, he is the first human to typify the sacrifice of Christ. Like an innocent lamb being led to the slaughter, Abel utters not a word.
· Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth. NASU
Of course Isaiah 53:7 refers to Jesus Christ, however, the parallels between Christ and Abel help us reinterpret the role of the first prophet. Abel’s was the first blood of all the prophets shed “from” foundation of the world; Jesus made this point clear in Luke 11:50-51.
Though the NAS translates it as “since” in Luke 11:50, and Revelation 13:8 translates the same Greek word as “from” both texts use the same word:
The Greek for “from” or “since” is a primary particle “apo” (NT: 575); it means, “away from something near,” and is used in various senses of place, time, or relation, either literal or figuratively. This means Jesus is speaking of the first blood shed near to the foundation of the world (Greek = kósmos, or inhabited world)
The phrase, “from the foundation of the world,” in Luke 11:50 & Revelation 13:8 in the Greek text reads, “apo kataboleés kósmou.” The word kataboleés is kata (down) and boles (to throw violently) and the word kósmou is rendered, “to take care of; also world,” with its primary meaning being order, regular disposition and arrangement.
Neither text includes the definite article in the Greek, so the phrase translates literally as, “near to when violence threw down moral order.” The implication is not as much to the foundation or creation of the earth as to the time when God’s moral order of life was violently thrown down in complete disregard of Him.
Because kósmou comes from kósmos there can be a foundation implied, secondary to the principle use. Cain establishes the first of the world’s inhabitants who try to take the kingdom of heaven by violence or force, establishing a new world order where, “Might makes right.”
Jesus speaks of all the prophets that suffered violence at the hands of men like Cain, from the beginning until John the Baptist, who was also a prophet.
· Matthew 11:12-14 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.” NASU
To prove Abel was also the male lamb “slain” from the foundation of the world in Revelation 13:8, a comparison of Greek words is necessary.
The Greek word for “slain” in Revelation 13:8 is esfagménou (NT: 4969), and it means, “to slay, slaughter, or butcher.” This word for “slain” (esfagménou) is used ONLY in two books of the NT; it is used twice in 1 John 3:12, and it is used 8 times in the Book of Revelation. As you will see later, this is not by accident; God’s word IS inspired, but only in the original languages will it stand the test of scrutiny.
· 1 John 3:11-12 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew (esfagménou) his brother. And for what reason did he slay (esfagménou) him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous. NASU
John’s epistle is written to the CHURCH; therefore, the blood of Abel the prophet is used by God to prophesy to those who profess Christ with their lips, but their heart is far from him. Like Cain, these are religious Christians that refuse to love their brothers and sisters by caring for their needs. They are self-serving, critical and absorbed with their own “church” rather than loving Jesus. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power of God’s love.
The context of 1 John 3:10-4:1 sets forth what God’s “order” is supposed to be. Pay close attention to the comparisons made between Cain and those in the church that do not love their brethren in Christ:
1 John 3:10-4:1
3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
3:11-13 For this is the message, which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
3:16 We know love by this that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
3:17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
3:19-20 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
3:21-22 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Abel was slain by his brother because, in his arrogance, Cain blasphemed God AND His tabernacle. The context of Revelation 13:5-6 includes this as the attitude of all that oppose God and suppress the righteous, as Cain did.
Lastly, the phrase “foundation of the world” appears in yet another important text regarding how Jesus prefers to be loved… the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25: 34
Then the King will say to those at His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit…receive as your own… the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
As you read the complete text of this account in Matthew 25:31-46, consider the difference between “goat” Christians and “sheep” Christians. This text is an intimate parallel to 1 John 3:10-4:1 and the irony is that 1 John 4:1 is the warning to test the spirits, because many “false prophets” have gone out from the church.
In Matthew 25:34 Jesus gives the kingdom, prepared from the foundation of the world, to the sheep. You are able to tell the difference between the ‘Abel-kind’ of prophet and the ‘Cain-kind’ of false prophet by observing how they treat their brethren… Selah.
25:31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory (His majesty and splendor), and all the holy angels with Him, and then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
25:32 All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [the people] from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats; [Ezekiel 34:17.]
25:33 And He will cause the sheep to stand at His right hand, but the goats at His left.
25:34 Then the King will say to those at His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father; you favored of God and appointed to eternal salvation, inherit (receive as your own) the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me,”
25:36 “I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me.” [Isaiah 58:7.]
25:37 Then the just and upright will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink?”
25:38 “And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained You, or naked and clothed You?”
25:39 “And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You?”
25:40 And the King will reply to them, “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.” [Proverbs 19:17.]
25:41 Then He will say to those at His left hand, “Be gone from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!”
25:42 “For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink,”
25:43 “I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me and entertain Me, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me with help and ministering care.”
25:44 Then they also in their turn will answer, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?”
25:45 And He will reply to them, “Solemnly I declare to you, in so far as you failed to do it for the least of these, in the estimation of men, you failed to do it for Me.” [Proverbs 14:31; 17:5.]
25:46 Then they will go away into eternal punishment, but those who are just and upright and in right standing with God into eternal life. [Daniel 12:2]. AMP
The “goats” in Matthew 25:41-46 are an unfortunate parallel to those in Revelation 13:8 whose name HAS NOT BEEN WRITTEN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, in the book of life, of the lamb (Abel) who has been slain. The goats are also like those unloving believers and false prophets in 1 John 3:10-4:1 that see their brother in need, and do not help.
Many teach that Jesus Christ is the “lamb” slain from the foundation of the world in Revelation 13:8. While Jesus IS the Lamb of GOD that TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD (John 1:29), he is NOT the same lamb slain from the very foundation of the world. The proof for this is found in Hebrews 9:26:
· Hebrews 9:26 For then would He (Christ) often have had to suffer over and over again since (from – apo) the foundation of the world. But as it now is, HE HAS ONCE FOR ALL AT THE CONSUMMATION AND CLOSE OF THE AGES APPEARED to put away and abolish sin by His sacrifice of Himself. AMP
Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20) but he didn’t actually exist and then appear until the end of the OT “ages.” This is when he suffered and died as a sacrifice for sin. It is important to distinguish that Jesus was not slain from the beginning of earth’s creation. Galatians 4:4 says Jesus was BORN at the right time… no sooner… no later.
SUMMARY: Abel’s blood prophesies as a witness against all who approve of Cain’s evil deeds by refusing to be their brother’s keeper, allowing anger, bitterness and jealousy to rule their behavior. Luke 11:50 tells of Abel, the prophet whose blood was shed from the foundation of the world.
In Revelation 13:8 Abel is portrayed as the lamb that was slain near to the foundation of the world; that is, slain from the establishing of the new world order, started by Cain, who was of the evil one.
Those in the church that ignore their brother’s need and disregard God’s will (like Cain) are obviously the children of the devil. The children of God (like Abel) and are obvious too because they don’t love with merely prophetic words, but in deed and truth.
False prophets don’t love, true prophets love without saying a word. Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats at the final judgment, and will give his Father’s kingdom, prepared from the foundation of the world, to those like the prophet Abel (sheep… not goats) whose names are written in the book of life, prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
RECOMMENDED READING: Hebrews 4:3ff, 9:26ff; Matthew 13:11-17 & 13:34-35; Revelation 17:8ff.
To be Continued in Part 4
Links to the Entire "What is the Prophetic” Series:
To be Continued in Part 4