(Jesus) said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But (the disciples) did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement (Lk9:44-45NASB).
It’s a theme I constantly refer to for in my experience many, including those who regard themselves as Bible-believing Christians, are unaware of its significance. For a key to unravelling the mystery of God’s providential intentions towards His earthly creation (cf. Rev10) and the historical errors concerning it is to recognize that even Jesus’ closest disciples were not aware that their Messiah was destined to die and be resurrected (see also Lk18:33-34 & Mt16:22; 17:22-23). It re-affirms the point made in my earlier post concerning the “gospel of the kingdom” and the fact that that particular mission statement cannot have incorporated any soteriology pertaining to the Cross.
Of course the apostolic writers and the churches founded by them have rightly focused on the latter, but such could not have been contained within “this gospel of the Kingdom” that Jesus was referring to in the Olivet discourse (Mt24:14 Greek), for that same “gospel” had been preached by His disciples (Mt10:7-8) whom Matthew and Luke affirm were at the time clueless concerning their Master’s future Passion or its purpose.
This simple incontrovertible observation has radical implications: it nullifies the fearsome Augustine’s proposal that people in Old Testament times were condemned to Hell except they had “believed in the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Christ as a future event” [a]. Nor, referring back to Genesis could righteous Abel have been “anticipating the Passion” when he sacrificed an animal whilst his brother offered the dregs of his fruit harvest. Cain happened to be a fruit farmer, Abel tended livestock (Gen4:2); but comparing scripture with scripture the key point is that Abel’s offering had been accepted because his works were righteous; Cain AND his offering were rejected because his works were evil (1Jn3:11,12). The one was a child of God, so feared His Creator (i.e. had faith) and did what he knew to be right, the other was described by the apostle John as wicked and satanic (Greek:ek tou ponerou), derived from the Evil One (1Jn3:12). Cain as the first man to be born of woman was the archetype of what Jesus, John and Paul refer to as children of the devil, whom, to put it mildly, are to be ignominiously dealt with at Christ’s coming (cf. Rom9:21,22; 2Thes1:8; Mt13:49; Mt15:13; ref: Enoch1:1). Similarly, Abel will not have “got saved” by anticipating Calvary, for I say again, even Christ’s disciples were ignorant of His future Passion or its purpose. Rather, Abel was justified within the eluded universal covenant of life (explained in FOTS* ch.2).
So the Cain and Abel story is primarily concerned with the reprobation of the elder brother, who showed himself to be a God-hating homicidal maniac. He became “cursed from the earth” (Gen4:11 – note the “NOW”) and alienated from God’s loving care (Gen4:14 – note “THIS DAY”), i.e. his reprobation was affirmed after killing his brother and was not directly related to his offering (cf. the mystery of evil – FOTS* ch.6).
Thankfully, Cain’s fate is not the fate of man by nature, for man is “in Adam”, not Cain. Natural man’s condition is nevertheless perilous, for his God-given soul/spirit (that which returns to God at death) inherits what Paul refers to as “the body of this death” (somatos tou thanatou toutou Rom7:24) from his parents, ultimately from Adam. Paul’s “this” (toutou) is important as it refers to the “death” Paul is describing in the passage (Rom7:14-24), i.e. what the person he was depicting was currently experiencing; not the fact that he was mortal or was “to go to hell when he dies” as many understand the matter. As a result of such Pauline anthropological dualism (which Augustine dismissed, partly as a result of his wariness concerning the heretical cosmic dualism expounded by Manes), most people by nature aspire to do good and genuinely admire noble qualities such as compassion, generosity, bravery and integrity in others. Indeed, in view of his conscience (which fails to function in the likes of Cain), fallen man exhibits by nature some of the qualities prescribed in God’s Law becoming a law for himself (Rom2:14,15 cf. Greek). At the same, there is within man another law or guiding principle “within his members” (i.e. his physical senses as processed through the brain) “warring against the law in his mind (the conscience Rom2:15), bringing him into captivity to the law of sin (concupiscence) which is in his members (Rom7:22-24). Such is the nature of “original sin” or Pauline “death”, and unless remedied, it radically damages the relationship with God for which man was created – hence the Passion, hence the Gospel.
It is remedied in the present (albeit for a minority) by responding to that gospel and experiencing sacramental participation with Christ (Jn6:55-57). By such means of grace allied with corporal discipline (1Cor9:27), those who are called, chosen and faithful are “saved” from the corrupting influences of their disordered senses, becoming “free indeed to serve the living God” even whilst inhabiting Paul’s “body of death”; their souls being progressively healed so as to be fitted to share an immediate and right royal inheritance with the Son of God when He comes to establish His eternal Kingdom (cf. Rom8:17-23). As Paul jubilantly referred to this mystery, for the Christian it becomes a case of“Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Col1:26,27NKJV)
[a] Augustine: “Against two letters of the Pelagians” Book III Chap. 11
* i.e. The Fellowship of the Secret – free PDF HERE