“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.”
Whenever we stand before the presence of God to glorify Him, we should not approach Him through some religious rituals, but instead we have to approach Him by trusting in what He has done for us and thanking Him for His love. Only then does God accept our worship and pour the Holy Spirit on us abundantly.
Abel offered the firstborn of his flock and their fat. When an offering is made to God, one must bring a sacrificial animal and offer its fat as well without fail. It is written countless times in the Bible that they had to bring this fat when approaching God. Why is it then necessary to bring the fat to God? It’s because the fat of the sacrificial animal mentioned in the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit—that is, to the sacred Spirit of God.
Any offering of sacrifice offered to God must infallibly be of an unblemished living animal. This unblemished offering symbolizes Jesus Christ Himself. In order for the holy God to come to this earth incarnated in the flesh, Jesus Christ was conceived in the body of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, and therefore He is the flawless Son of God the Father. The Bible tells us that to blot out mankind’ sins; Jesus Christ offered His own body to God the Father to be our peace offering.
A peace offering is a sacrifice whereby a sinner is made sinless and reconciled to God by bringing a sacrificial animal to Him, laying his hands on its head and sacrificing this animal. Accordingly, a peace offering is the same as a sin offering. In the Old Testament, when an Israelite committed sin, he brought an unblemished animal to the Tabernacle as his sacrificial offering, laid his hands on its head, killed it, drew its blood and then handed this blood over to the priest. The priest then put this blood on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and offered the sacrifice of atonement on the sinner’s behalf. Along with the flesh of the slaughtered animal, the priest also had to offer its fat, as God had commanded, “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). So as a precedent foreshadowing this sacrificial system, Abel also offered the firstborn of his flock and their fat to God.
When the Israelites offered sacrifices to God, they laid their hands on their sacrificial animal without fail, cut it into pieces, and put them on the altar of burnt offering. They also had to remove the fat attached to the liver and kidneys of the sacrificial animal and offer them to God. This foreshadowed the atonement that Jesus Christ has brought to us, prophesying that He would become our High Priest, bear our sins, offer His body to God as our peace offering and thereby blot out all our sins.
Jesus Christ is God Himself. Yet to offer His body as our propitiation to God the Father, He came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man. Jesus is God and our Savior. It’s because Jesus Christ sacrificed His body as the peace offering of mankind that we were able to receive the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit from God. That is why it is now possible for us the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit to come before the presence of God without hesitation, and to have fellowship with this holy God.
However, those who have misunderstood Jesus Christ cannot be reconciled to God. Because these people still have sins remaining intact in their hearts, therefore they are unable to come before the presence of God. To be reconciled to God, one must understand the perfect peace offering that Jesus made and believe in this offering. But despite this requirement, many people still remain unable to be washed from their sins, all because they don’t realize that Jesus is God Himself. They don’t know the perfect peace offering that Jesus made, and therefore they don’t believe in Him. Even if we were to slaughter thousands of animals and offer them to God, would He accept them? Would God really accept such sacrifices? Even though many Christians feel sorry for Jesus, thinking about how much He must have suffered on the Cross and how ashamed He must have been, they have not come to the presence of God the Father by believing wholeheartedly that Jesus is divine, and as a result, they have as yet not been able to receive the remission of their sins.
That Abel offered the fat of the firstborn means that he believed in the promised salvation that God Himself, who is the Word, would come to this earth incarnated in the flesh. Because Jesus is God Himself, the work of atonement He carried out is perfect, and therefore it is by believing in this work of salvation that we are saved from sin. If Jesus were just a mortal man, then it would be impossible for us to be saved from our sins. If Jesus were not divine, even His vicarious death on the Cross would be completely useless for us. For us humans to be saved from sin by believing in God, God Himself has to come to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man to become our own unblemished offering, take upon the sins of mankind through His baptism and die in our place. Only if Jesus is divine can He become the true Savior of mankind, and only if we understand and believe in this Truth without fail can we be saved.
Today there are many Christians who think of Jesus only as a man, even as they profess to believe in Him as their Savior. People like this cannot be truly saved from their sins. Only those who believe that Jesus is God Himself can be saved. In addition, one must know and believe that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River to bear our sins, and that He suffered the cruel death of the Cross in order to be condemned for our sins in our place—only then does one reach salvation.
It was completely just and fitting for Jesus Christ to bear the sins of this world through His baptism and thus He became our own sacrificial offering to pay off the wages of these sins. That’s why when Jesus was about to be baptized by John the Baptist in a form of the laying on of hands, He told John, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). It is therefore only our duty to believe in this gospel of Truth. Even though we all deserved to be cursed, in order to blot out all our sins, God the Father took Jesus Christ as our peace offering and eradicated our shame, curses and suffering through Christ. That is how we have been saved.
The Bible says that God did not accept Cain and his offering because Cain had offered the fruit of the ground as his offering to God (Genesis 4:5). In this offering of Cain, there was no blood letting to pay for its life. It is water and blood that wash away people’s sins. We are freed from all our sins when we believe that Jesus is God Himself, and that He took away our sins through His baptism and His death on the Cross. God could not accept us humans because we had too many sins. So in order to break down this wall of sin separating us from God, and to blot out all our sins, God took His own Son to be our unblemished sacrifice, as our peace offering to the Father. And the Lord has indeed blotted out all our sins in the most just way.
To understand exactly how our sins have been washed away, we need to examine the sacrifice of the Old Testament and the eternal sacrifice of the New Testament more closely.
Firstly, Leviticus 4:28-31 describes the daily sacrifices offered by the Israelites in the Old Testament. We read, “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” (Leviticus 4:27).
Before building the Tabernacle, God had given the Law. That’s because the Law enabled people to realize their sins (Romans 3:20). Through the Law, God enabled the Israelites to realize their sins first, and then enter into the Tabernacle and receive the remission of sins through the sacrificial system. The common people here refer to every one of the Israelites. When anyone of the common people realized that he/she was a sinner who broke the commandments of God, he/she brought an unblemished animal to the Tabernacle, laid his/her hands on its head, killed it, offered its blood to God, and was thereby through this reconciled back to God. This was God’s grace of salvation which was bestowed upon the people of Israel.
Leviticus 4:29 says, “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.” The sin offering here refers to the sacrificial animal that was put to death in a sinner’s place. It’s the sacrificial animal that accepted the sinner’s iniquities through the laying on of his hands, and it’s the animal that died in his place. “The laying on of hands” means “to pass on, or to transfer.” If a demon-possessed person lays his hands on another person, that person also becomes demon-possessed. Likewise, sin is also passed on through the laying on of hands. Leviticus 1:1-4 say that once a sinner passed his sins on through the laying on of hands, he should kill the bull. The method of any sacrifice offered to God must be in accordance with this sacrificial system.
“Levi” is the name of the third son of Jacob (Genesis 29:34). The name “Levi” means “to join onto” God. The message of the Book of Leviticus is that God would restore our peace with Him by blotting out all our sins that had separating us from God. It’s written, “‘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” (Leviticus 1:3). This passage means that the offering sacrificed at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting had to be offered in a way that would be acceptable to God.
To offer this sacrifice that was acceptable and pleasing to God, the Israelites had to lay their hands on the head of their burnt offerings. The Bible tells us that atonement was only then made.
When the common people of the Old Testament received the remission of their daily sins, they first passed their sins onto a sacrificial animal by laying their hands on its head, took out its fat, cut it into pieces, and offered it to God. But before the sacrifice was burnt, its blood was first put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering. What is the meaning of this ritual?
The Bible says,
“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron;
With the point of a diamond it is engraved
On the tablet of their heart,
And on the horns of your altars” (Jeremiah 17:1).
Spiritually speaking, the horns of the altar of burnt offering refer to the Book of Judgment where mankind’s sins are recorded before God (Revelation 20:12). That the blood of the sacrifice was put on these horns of the altar of burnt offering shows us that even though it was the sinner that had to die to pay the wages of his sins, the blood of his sacrifice was offered instead as the price of his very life. In other words, when God saw the blood on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, He recognized it as the payment of the wages of sin. That’s because the wages of sin is death.
The priest then poured the rest of the blood on the ground below the altar of burnt offering. This ground at the base of the altar refers to the human heart. Why did the priest pour the remaining blood at the base of the altar? Whenever a person commits sin, this sin is written on the tablet of his heart. Even if this sin is committed unintentionally as a mistake, and therefore the sinner thinks that this sin would be forgotten, it still remains in his heart and he is continuously reminded of it. So the blood of the sacrifice was poured out at the base of the altar as a reminder to get one’s conscience cleansed. When a sacrificer saw the blood of his sacrificial animal poured at the base of the altar, he realized that it was he that had to shed blood and die like this animal, and he returned with a profound gratitude, thanking God for accepting the sacrifice of this animal on his behalf. Even though anyone with sin had to inevitably die, because God loved mankind, He had enabled sinners of the Old Testament to approach Him by receiving the remission of their sins through the sacrificial system, whereby their sins were passed to their sacrificial animals and were then put to death in their place.
This was the method by which the people of the Old Testament received the remission of sins and could approach God. However, such daily sacrifices were rather cumbersome, as they had to be offered day in and day out. Further any sin for which no sacrifice was offered continued to accumulate in the Israelites’ hearts. So God gave them another way to make atonement for their yearly sins, lest they fall into total despair.
It’s written in Leviticus 16:29-30, “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.” As is written here, God set the tenth day of the seventh month as the Day of Atonement. God established this day to be the day when every sin was cleansed not just for the people of Israel, but also for all the strangers dwelling amongst them, and He told them all not to work at all on that day.
Every year, the tenth day of the seventh month was set aside as the Day of Atonement when all the yearly sins of the Israelites were atoned for. Ordinary priests did not minister the sacrifice offered on this day, but instead, Aaron the High Priest ministered the entire sacrifice all by himself. To offer the sacrifice that would make atonement for all the yearly sins of the Israelites once for all, Aaron had to first make atonement for his own sins and the sins of his house. So he took an unblemished bull, passed his sins and his house’s sins by laying his hands on its head, killed the bull and then took its blood into the Most Holy. He then put his finger on this blood and sprinkled it seven times on the Ark of the Testimony inside the Most Holy—that is, on the Mercy Seat and its east side (Leviticus 16:11-14).
Having thus made atonement for himself and his house, Aaron then took two goats, cast lots for them, took one of them was taken into the Tabernacle, and sacrificed it to God on behalf of all his people. After laying his hands on the goat’s head, killing it, and drawing its blood, Aaron took this blood into the Most Holy and sprinkled it seven times before and above the Ark of the Testimony, just as he had done so with the blood of the bull.
What is the significance of this sprinkling of blood “seven times” mentioned here? In the Bible the number “seven” means perfection. In other words, that the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled seven times implies that God has perfectly remitted away everyone’s sins. As golden bells were attached to the hem of Aaron’s robe, when he walked around in the Tabernacle, the sound of the golden bells could be heard clearly. So when Aaron sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat, the ringing sound of these golden bells was also heard. Outside the Sanctuary, the people waited anxiously until the golden bells rang seven times.
The people of Israel were remitted from their sins in this way, but because they were outside the Tabernacle, there were some who doubted whether their sins were actually passed on or not. So the High Priest came out of the Tabernacle and offered another sacrifice with the remaining goat while all the people were watching him. Standing before the people of Israel who brought their yearly sins, Aaron laid his hands on this goat’s head and confessed all their sins of the entire year. When he took his hands off the goat, all these sins were passed onto the goat. With the people of Israel watching, this goat was then led into the wilderness in the hands of a suitable man to be abandoned there, thus removing the sins of the Israelites far away from them, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and enabling them to receive the remission of sins. This goat is called a scapegoat. The word scapegoat means “to be sent out.” Shouldering the yearly sins of Israel, this scapegoat wandered in the barren wilderness until it died, and thus paid off the wages of the sins of the Israelites in their place, the people of Israel were remitted from their sins it this way (Leviticus 16:21-22).
Referring to the Day of Atonement, God said in the Bible, “This shall be a statute forever for you” (Leviticus 16:29). This statute, in other words, foreshadowed the everlasting sacrifice of atonement. After all, how could any animal forever blot out any sin? The scapegoat is none other than a precursor foreshadowing Jesus. In a form of the laying on of hands, our Lord God received baptism on His completely sinless and holy body, and thereby accepted all our sins and enabled us to receive the eternal remission of sins. Jesus came as the Savior who “will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
When Jesus turned 30, He began His public ministry to blot out all our sins. When we turn to Matthew 3:15, we see Jesus commanding John the Baptist to baptize Him saying, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” This passage means that it was fitting for Jesus to be baptized in order to blot out all the sins of mankind. Just as Aaron was the representative of the people of Israel, so was John the Baptist the representative of mankind. Referring to John the Baptist, Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). In order for Jesus to accept all the sins of mankind, He had to be baptized by John the Baptist, the representative of all mankind. The baptism that Jesus received was one that entailed the laying of the hands from John the Baptist, whereupon Jesus went into the water and came out of it again. That Jesus was submerged here implies His death, and His emersion implies His resurrection.
Both ‘laying on of hands’ and ‘baptism’ have the same meaning. In the Old Testament, sin was passed on through the laying on of hands; while in the New Testament, this was done through the baptism of Jesus. Jesus was not baptized just because He was humble, but He was baptized to blot out everyone’s sins—that is, to fulfill all righteousness. As Jesus accepted all the sins of the entire world, every sin came to rest on His head. He was not crucified in His sinless state, but while shouldering the sins of the world on His body. It is written, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). It was because of our sins that Jesus was wounded and bruised, and it was to bear the condemnation of our sins that He died on the Cross. If Jesus had died without being baptized, then His death would have been irrelevant to us.
The offering of Abel described in today’s Scripture passage foreshadowed our salvation brought by the sacrifice of Jesus, who despite being sinless, bore our sins and sacrificed Himself to God as our peace offering. When Jesus was baptized, our sins were passed onto Him. Salvation is reached only when one believes in this.
Let’s turn to John 1:29: “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 John the Baptist baptized Jesus, he bore witness of Jesus saying, “Behold! Jesus the Lamb of God is carrying all our sins!” When John the Baptist passed our sins to Jesus by laying his hands on His head, all our hearts’ sins were completely washed away.
The word baptism means “to pass on,” “to bury,” and “to wash,” all of which carry the same meaning. Through His baptism, Jesus bore all our sins—that is, each and every sin that we have ever committed and will ever commit throughout our entire lifetime. Even if we make mistakes along the way, we are still sinless. Heaven cannot be gained through our own meritorious works, but it is gained by believing wholeheartedly that Jesus took away all our sins. Because Jesus took away all the sins of mankind once for all in advance, there is no more sin left in this world. Everyone has therefore become sinless, but many people do not believe that Jesus took away their sins, and that is why they are heading to hell with all their sins remaining intact. In contrast, all those who believe in Jesus properly are righteous, for they have received the perfect remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Anyone who has no sin is a righteous person. Those whose faith is perfect are truly sinless in their hearts.
Jesus gave up His life for us and bled to death in our place. And just before taking His last breath on the Cross, He shouted out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Like this, Jesus has blotted out all the sins of this world once for all. The Bible tells us that our salvation has been completed, declaring that through one offering of atonement, Jesus Christ, God Himself has perfected forever those who are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). All of us who believe in this Truth are therefore forever sinless.