“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the LORD.’ Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering.”
Today, focusing on the passage that says, “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat,” I would like to speak to you about our eternal salvation that was foreshadowed in the sacrifice of atonement. Of the offerings that Cain and Abel brought, God only accepted the offering of Abel. Why did He do so? Had Abel not offered the firstborn of his flock and their fat, God would not have accepted his offering. This means that when we want to come out to God, we shouldn’t just come out with only the rituals of worship, but we must bring our faith in what God has done for us. In other words, we must bring our faith in the salvation of atonement, in the love of the remission of sins. Only then can God accept this offering and pour the Holy Spirit on us.
You are probably wondering then why you must bring a sacrificial offering and its fat for your offering to be acceptable to God. Today, I will explain this to you clearly beyond all doubts.
When the Israelites brought a sacrificial animal, why did they have to bring its fat along with its flesh? That’s because the fat mentioned in the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit, God Himself. The Holy Spirit that the Bible speaks of is God Himself. Anyone who wants to offer a sacrifice to God must infallibly bring a sacrificial animal and its fat. The fat here refers to the Holy Spirit and God Himself, and that is why God said that the sacrifice offered to Him must be of a clean, unblemished animal, offered along with its fat. This message is repeated in many places in the Old Testament, and the unblemished offering of atonement refers to none other than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, He is forever sinless. Since the flawless God who came incarnated in the flesh is Jesus Himself, only the holy Jesus could be our sacrificial offering and propitiation of atonement to blot out all the sins of mankind. Jesus gave up His body as the peace offering for the entire human race.
Whatever blocks mankind from God, is sin. It is because of sin that we became God’s enemies and estranged from Him. Therefore, to restore our peace and fellowship with God, the obstacle called sin had to be removed. So God bestowed His grace on mankind in the form of His sacrificial system, and this entailed sin offering and peace offering. These offerings are offerings whereby a sinner brings a sacrificial animal to God, passes his sins onto it by laying his hands on its head, kills and burns it to be offered to God, and thereby receives the remission of his sins. This is the gist of the God-given sacrificial system of the remission of sins and atonement. That is why it is written in today’s Scripture passage that Abel sacrificed the firstborn of his flock and their fat as his offering to God, and why it was absolutely necessary for every sacrifice of atonement to include fat in its offering. So even for the sin offering of the common people, God said, “He shall remove all its fat, as fat is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offering; and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma to the LORD. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:31).
There were several different sacrifices offered to God. They included burnt offerings, sin offerings, trespass offerings, peace offerings, and so forth, but common to each of these offerings was the requirement that a sinner had to lay his hands on his sacrificial animal, kill the animal and cut it into pieces, and then take out and offer the fat from its liver, entrails, and kidneys to God. God wanted to receive not only the flesh of the animal, but He also wanted its fat.
Jesus Christ is our God, and He is also the High Priest of atonement who has made the eternal atonement for our sins. By offering His body to God as our propitiation of atonement, Jesus has atoned for all our sins and blotted them out, so that we may have absolutely no sin whatsoever before God. At that time, Jesus not only offered His body, but He also offered His fat. This Jesus, God Himself, came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man to offer His body to God the Father as our propitiation of atonement, and by burning His fat along with His flesh to be offered to the Father as our sacrifice of atonement, He bore the condemnation of our sins to pay off their wages. In doing so, He has set His believers free from all their sins. As our sins have actually disappeared, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in our hearts, and that is precisely why we now have no obstacle whatsoever to come out and stand before the presence of God, and why we are able to have fellowship with Him.
The everlasting sacrifice of atonement, where Jesus made atonement for all our sins, was offered with the body of Jesus and His Spirit—that is, His fat—but those who have misunderstood Jesus Christ think that He offered only His body. Christians who believe that Jesus gave up His body only to shed His blood can never be reconciled with God. That’s because their hearts still remain sinful. They have neither passed their sins to Jesus through His baptism, nor have they received holiness and rest in their hearts, and therefore they cannot come out to God even as they believe in Jesus.
The sacrificial animals for both the daily and annual sacrifices offered in the Old Testament all had the following common requirements: 1) they had to be unblemished; 2) they had to take upon sin through the laying on of hands; and 3) they had to be killed and burnt. All these conditions had to be met by Jesus as well, our propitiation who gave the eternal sacrifice of atonement. There are clear conditions for Jesus to become our peace offering of atonement. First, like the sacrificial animals of the Old Testament, He has to be unblemished; second, as these animals had to accept the sins of the Israelites through the laying on of their hands, He has to accept our sins by being baptized; and third, He has to be sacrificed and His body and fat must be offered to God. Only then can those who believe in Jesus receive the perfect remission of sins into their hearts.
However, many Christians do not believe that Jesus is the Spirit—that is, God Himself—and instead think that they would be saved just by believing in Jesus blindly. You may sacrifice all the animals you want, offering only the flesh of thousands of animals without their fat, but God will not even look at such lawless sacrifices that are not offered according to the requirements set by Him. You should realize that God did not want sacrifices because He wanted to eat some meat. The worldly Christians only bring out the sacrifice of the body of Jesus. While they are well aware of Jesus’ physical sufferings, they do not accept into their hearts that Jesus is God Himself, and that He took upon the sins of the world through His baptism before He was condemned on the Cross in our place. There are so many Christians like these. Both the baptism and blood of Jesus constitute the Truth of salvation that every Christian professing to believe in Him must accept into his heart.
Jesus Christ Is God Himself
That Abel offered his sacrifice along with the fat means that the incarnated Jesus is the Spirit who came to fulfill the Word of God—that is, He is God Himself. Jesus is God. Only if Jesus is definitely God Himself can we be saved. If Jesus were just an ordinary man, insufficient and full of blemishes and sin just like us, then we can never be saved regardless of how often Jesus might sacrifice Himself for us. We can receive the remission of our sins only if God is incarnated in the flesh of man, and takes up and atones for all our sins. No human being can ever offer himself as a sacrifice of atonement for any other human being, for he cannot meet any conditions, not even one, that God has set for the proper sacrificial offering. Jesus, in contrast, is God Himself, and coming to this earth as the unblemished Lamb of sacrifice, He has become the Savior of mankind. That is why we must know and believe that Jesus is God.
Today, however, there are so many people who consider and believe in Jesus only as a man. None other than these people are offering only the body of the sacrificial animal without its fat. Such people cannot be saved from their sins even as they believe in Jesus. Only those who know and believe that Jesus is God Himself, that He was baptized in the Jordan River to take upon all our sins, and that He was condemned in our place and suffered the vicarious death of atonement on the Cross, can be saved from the sins of the world. It was to deliver and save us from the sins of the world, when we had been destined to hell for our sins, that Jesus took upon the sins of the world and became our sacrificial offering. Because Jesus accepted the sins of the world by receiving baptism on His unblemished body, He went to the Cross and paid off the wages of our sins by shedding His blood to death vicariously. To blot out our sins, God used Jesus Christ as the peace offering of atonement, making Him accept sinners’ iniquities, shame, curses, and suffering, and bear the death of atonement. In other words, God fulfilled the everlasting sacrifice of atonement, so that whoever believes in this would be able to be saved.
Genesis 4:5 says that God “did not respect Cain and his offering.” Cain had brought the fruit of the ground as his offering to God. God did not accept this offering precisely because it had no life—that is, it had no blood, nor fat. The blood of the sacrificial offering remits away people’s sins. And it is when we offer the blood of propitiation along with its fat to God that we are freed from sin.
Because we humans are full of blemishes, God does not accept anything of our own. In other words, God does not accept such produces of the ground as our own human efforts or will. If we want to break down the wall of sin that separates us from God, then we must bring our offering to Him according to the sacrificial system that He has given us, but because it’s impossible for us to offer sacrifices every day like this, God took His own unblemished and sinless Son as our peace offering of atonement and thereby forever blotted out our sins once for all.
The Old Testament’s Sacrifice That Remitted away Daily Sins
Of the sacrifices of the Old Testament, let us first examine the sacrifice that remitted away daily sins: “If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering. Then the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour all the remaining blood at the base of the altar. He shall remove all its fat, as fat is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offering; and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma to the LORD. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:27-31).
The common people in the above passage refer to everyone in this world. In other words, when an ordinary person realized that he broke one of the statutes of the God-established Law and turned into a sinner, to be reconciled to God again, he had to offer a sacrifice of atonement. If he was guilty of breaking any of the commandments of the Lord God unintentionally, and he realized this sin through the Law, then he had to first bring an unblemished sacrificial animal to the Tabernacle and transfer his sin by laying his hands on the head of the animal. The sacrificial animal then had to be killed at the altar of burnt offering, its blood had to be put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and the rest of the blood had to be poured at the base of the altar. He was then atoned from his sins and could be reconciled to God. In short, this was God’s law of salvation, where He made an unblemished animal bear a sinner’s iniquities through the laying on of his hands on its head, and make atonement for his sins.
God said that a sinner had to lay his hands on the head of his sacrifice, and here, “the laying on of hands” means “to pass on,” or “to transfer.” You probably saw someone praying while laying his hands on another person’s head. This is done to pass one’s ability to another person while the person is praying. When a sinner in the Old Testament era laid his hands on the head of his sacrificial animal, his sins were passed onto the offering. Any sacrifice offered to God must infallibly be offered according to the sacrificial system set by Him. Leviticus 1:3 says, “If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.” This means that the sacrifice had to be offered at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting in a way that would be acceptable to God in pleasure. God said that for a sinner to offer his sacrifice to be acceptable to Him in pleasure, he had to lay his hands on the head of his burnt offering. He said that when the sinner thus passed his sins to his unblemished sacrificial animal by laying his hands on its head, and offered its flesh and fat, God would then accept the sacrifice in pleasure, and the sacrifice would make atonement for him (Leviticus 1:2-5).
When the people of the Old Testament received the remission of their daily sins, they had to infallibly pass all their sins to the sacrificial animal by laying their hands on its head, kill it, draw its blood, take out its fat, cut it into pieces, and then offer it to God. And the blood of this sacrifice was first put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering. The horns of the altar of burnt offering refer to the Books of Judgment that record all the sins committed before God (Jeremiah 17:1; Revelation 20:12). Putting the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar of burnt offering means being remitted from the sins recorded in the Books of Judgment before God. When the Israelites sacrificed to God, the animal that accepted their sins bled and died on their behalf, and that is why they put this blood that was paid with the price of life on the horns of the altar of burnt offering. By thus putting this blood, the price of life, on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, the Israelites could blot out their names that were written in the Books of Judgment. Because the wages of sin is death, when God saw the blood of the sacrifice, He approved it to have paid off the wages of sin. There are the Books of Judgment (the Books of Deeds) before God (Revelation 20:12). Seeing the blood put on these horns of the altar of burnt offering where our sins are recorded—that is, the Books of Judgment—God approves us as having paid off the wages of our sins with life.
After putting the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, the remaining blood was poured at the base of the altar. The base of the altar—that is, the ground—means the heart of mankind. When someone commits sin, this sin is simultaneously recorded both in the Books of Judgment and the tablet of his heart. Even if he commits sin unintentionally by mistake, because his heart has a conscience, it enables him to realize his sin and continues to remind him. That is why the Israelites poured the blood of the sacrificial animal at the base of the altar, so that their consciences would be cleansed. So when the Israelites who sacrificed to God saw the blood of their offering, they came to realize, “I had to shed my blood and die like this, but God allowed the sacrificial animal to die in my place,” and thanked God for this salvation of atonement. In other words, they thanked God for His love of salvation from the depth of their hearts.
Anyone who has sin must die deservedly. However, because God loved human beings, He could not just put them to death. That is why our just God gave the sacrificial system of atonement, whereby mankind’s sins were passed onto an animal, and the animal was killed instead of mankind. Through this, God enabled the Israelites to receive the remission of their sins. The sacrificial system that God gave was just, and therefore, God made it possible for anyone who received his salvation of everlasting atonement according to this system to come out and stand before Him without any fear. Both the daily and annual sacrifices that the people of Israel offered foreshadowed the everlasting remission of sins that came to us through Jesus. Therefore, anyone who believes in the New Testament’s eternal remission of sins fulfilled according to the Old Testament’s law of the remission of sins will be saved.
The Old Testament’s Annual Sacrifice
The sacrifice of atonement that the people of Israel in the Old Testament offered on a daily basis was very inconvenient and burdensome. Even when they offered their sacrifice one day, if they committed sin again the next day, they reverted back to sinners. So, lest they would fall into despair at their inability to sacrifice every day and give up their faith, God established the statute of yearly sacrifices for them.
It is written, “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD” (Leviticus 16:29-30). God set the tenth day of the seventh month as the Day of Atonement, establishing it as the day when not just the people of Israel but also everyone dwelling in their land are cleansed from their sins, and He commanded them not to do any other work on this day.
Every year, the tenth day of the seventh month was the Day of Atonement, the day when the Israelites were remitted from all their yearly sins. On this Day of Atonement, it was the High Priest Aaron, not just any ordinary priest, who offered the sacrifice on behalf of the people of Israel. As for sacrificial animals, two unblemished goats had to be brought. After casting lots for these two goats, one was offered inside the Tabernacle, while the other was sacrificed before the eyes of the people of Israel. Aaron laid his hands on the head of the first goat, killed it, took its blood into the Most Holy, and sprinkled this blood seven times on and before the Ark of Testimony—that is, the mercy seat.
That the blood was sprinkled seven times is also significant. As Genesis 2:2 says, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done,” the number seven in the Bible denotes “perfection.” Therefore, the fact that the High Priest sprinkled the blood seven times meant that every Israelite’s sins were completely remitted away. As golden bells were attached at the hem of the garment of the High Priest, when he sprinkled the blood seven times, the bells rang seven times as well. The people of Israel waited anxiously outside the Tabernacle for these bells to ring seven times. And they were rejoiced to hear this sound outside the Tabernacle, for all Israel’s sins were completely atoned before God when the High Priest sprinkled the blood seven times, which symbolized life.
This is how the people of Israel obtained the remission of their sins. However, because they were standing outside the Tabernacle, they couldn’t actually see the sacrifice being offered, and so some of them doubted whether their sins were really passed on or not. So the High Priest brought the remaining goat outside the Tabernacle, laid his hands on its head before the whole people of Israel watching, and confessed all the sins that they had committed over the year. Once Aaron thus laid his hands on the goat, every sin was passed onto the sacrificial goat. The scapegoat means the goat “to be sent out,” and after the High Priest laid his hands on its head, it was led into the waterless wilderness to wander around and die.
Like this, the laying on of hands in the Old Testament was a process necessary to the sacrifice of atonement, which is linked with the baptism of Jesus in the New Testament. Aaron the High Priest is linked with John the Baptist who was born as his descendant, and the sacrificial offering that took upon the yearly sins of the people of Israel is linked with Jesus, who atoned for mankind’s sins of the world by being baptized. When the High Priest laid his hands on the sacrificial animal, all the yearly sins of the people of Israel were passed onto the offering. Just as it is written, “This shall be a statute forever for you” (Leviticus 16:29), we must indeed keep this statute forever.
The Eternal Propitiation of Jesus Who Is God Himself
How could a sacrificial animal possibly make everlasting atonement for mankind’s sins? This sacrifice was no more than a shadow that foreordained the everlasting propitiation of Jesus, the Lamb of God who would come later. In other words, Jesus is the very Lamb that has forever atoned for the sins of mankind. As Jesus accepted the sins of the world onto His holy body by being baptized, He made eternal atonement for all the sins of the world. Having fulfilled the gospel of the water and the Spirit, Jesus has enabled anyone who believes in this gospel to receive the remission of his sins.
Jesus is the very God who came to save us humans from all our sins. Matthew 1:21 clearly testifies the purpose for which Jesus came to this earth, saying, “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” To fulfill this will of God, Jesus began His ministry of blotting out the sins of the world when He turned 30. When we turn to Matthew 3:15, we see Jesus commanding John the Baptist to baptize Him, saying to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” This means that it was fitting for Jesus to be baptized in order to blot out all the sins of mankind.
If Aaron was the representative of the people of Israel, John the Baptist is the representative of all mankind. Referring to John the Baptist, Jesus Himself said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Therefore, for Jesus to shoulder all the sins of mankind on everyone’s behalf like the Old Testament’s sacrificial animal, He had to receive baptism from John the Baptist, the representative of mankind. The baptism that Jesus received was one where He was submerged into the water and came out of it while John the Baptist had his hands laid on His head. That John’s hands were laid on Jesus means that He took upon all the sins of mankind; that He was submerged in the water implies His death; and that He came out of the water foreshadows His resurrection. In the Old Testament, it was through the laying on of hands that the people of Israel passed their sins onto their sacrificial animal, and this salvation of atonement was perfected in the New Testament by the baptism that Jesus received.
Why was Jesus baptized? It was not because He was humble that He was baptized, but it was to fulfill all righteousness by blotting out everyone’s sins, to take upon the sins of the world. As Jesus accepted all the sins of the entire world by being baptized, these sins were now placed on His head, and therefore He was not crucified in His sinless state, but after having already accepting our sins onto His body. That is how our propitiation of atonement was fulfilled properly. In other words, just as the Bible says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), it was precisely because of our sins that Jesus was wounded and bruised, and His death was also to pay off the wages of all our sins. Had Jesus died without first being baptized, His death would have had nothing to do with our salvation.
Where it says in Genesis 4:4, “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat,” means that Jesus, God Himself and sinless, took upon our sins and offered Himself as our peace offering to the Father, and this is how we have been saved. Our sins were passed onto Jesus when He was baptized. You will be saved if you believe in this.
Let us turn to John 1:29 here: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” The very next day after baptizing Jesus, John the Baptist bore witness of Jesus before the many people gathered there, saying to them, “Behold! Jesus the Lamb of God is carrying all our sins!” In other words, when John the Baptist passed all our sins to Jesus by laying his hands on His head, all the sins of our hearts were cleansed away.
Baptism means, “to pass on,” “to bury,” and “to wash away,” which essentially denote the same meaning of “the laying on of hands.” Through His baptism, Jesus took upon all our sins, each and every sin that we have ever committed since our birth and will ever commit until the day we die. Even if we make a mistake, we are still sinless. Heaven is not entered through our own acts, but we can enter it by believing with our hearts that Jesus took away all our sins. There is no sin in this world. That’s because Jesus already took away all the sins of mankind once for all. So while everyone is sinless, countless people are still heading straight to hell with all their sins intact, precisely because they do not believe that Jesus took away all their sins. However, those who believe in Jesus properly are righteous, for they have received the perfect remission of their sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Whoever has no sin is a righteous person. Whoever has the perfect faith is truly sinless in his heart.
When Jesus laid down His life for us and shed His blood to death in our place, He shouted out loud, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Like this, Jesus has blotted out all the sins of this world once for all. The Bible writes in the present perfect tense that by the everlasting sacrifice of atonement offered with His own body, Jesus Christ has forever perfected those who are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). To us who believe in this Truth, there is indeed no sin forever.