We are told in Genesis 4, that after Cain and Abel became young men, they brought offerings to the Lord. “Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground.” His younger brother “Abel was a keeper of flocks, … Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” Gen. 4:3,4 NASB).
In response to these offerings, “the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering he had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (vs. 4,5 NASB). God regarded Abel’s offering because it pictured the eventual offering of Jesus, his only begotten Son, who as “the lamb of God … taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
While we are not told explicitly if Cain and Abel understood this symbolism, the Apostle Paul writes, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous” (Heb. 11:4 NASB). One noted Bible scholar wrote, “It was not by custom nor by accident that Abel chose his sacrifice. Evidently, he had been seeking the mind of the Lord, and had found it.” This event teaches us the lesson that to be pleasing and acceptable to God, we must approach him on his terms and not our own.
The symbolism of a sacrificed lamb continued with Israel’s Passover. It was the blood of an unblemished lamb splashed on the doorposts and lintels that protected Israel’s firstborn and led to the nation’s deliverance from Egypt. The lamb pictured the perfect man, Jesus.
Revelation 5:6 (NASB) describes the resurrected Jesus as a “Lamb standing, as if slain.” In heaven, myriads of heavenly beings say “with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing’” (vs. 12 NASB). Jesus’ willingness to humble himself, give up his spiritual glory as the Logos and be made flesh, and then humble himself again unto the death of the cross earned the glory and honor spoken. Like a meek and obedient lamb, he followed the Heavenly Father’s will offering his life as ransom for father Adam. Because of this, “all who dwell on the earth will worship him, … the Lamb who has been slain” (Rev. 13:8 NASB).