By Fred Pruitt
(Note: This article is a much expanded and edited version of another article, “The Last Shall Be First — Introduction.” Though the original makes up the core of this version, it has been expanded enough to merit a completely new title.)
Where We Get Our Sustenance
There is a recurring theme in scripture, in the stories in Genesis, in the histories, and put into succinct terms in the New Testament. That recurring theme is that the last shall be first, and the elder shall serve the younger. First Adam, Last Adam.
The meaning of this theme for us is something more important than interesting scriptural insights. It has to do with sorrow turned into joy, bondage turned into freedom, and life resulting from death. It is about universal situations, such as war, widespread poverty and hunger, as well as about the most personal and intimate things in and of every individual
This is what the Spirit works in us inwardly as He moves us into Christ and into possessing our possessions. These stories give God’s process by which He makes a son who stands up to be a part of his father’s enterprise — after years starting from the ground up, finally taking on responsibility in the family business — and the family business of God Who is love, is the business of creating, sustaining and forming life into the expression of His Son in infinite variety. Each “individual” person loving each other and being loved by each other in the perfect eternal Love of God.
Therefore, we start with Cain and Abel. Cain is the firstborn, the first strength of the father and mother. Cain is a hard worker, tilling the land, working the crops, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow. That is an honorable thing. What parents would not be proud that their son was such a hard worker and that he earned an adequate living? In addition, this is the one task that the Lord God names for man as he shuts Adam and Eve out of the Garden — that man should now till the ground from whence he was taken.
We understand that this is more than farming the earth. To “till the ground from which we were taken,” is another indication that Adam (we ourselves) turned away from God toward the outer world. In that outer world, we seek our sustenance and our lives.
God, Who is ever within us, is our true sustenance and our true life even in our ignorance and darkness of spirit. In the freedom that we as living expressions of Him were given, in Adam we experimented with turning away from God Who is inward in us. We turned from Him Who is already All and in all, in us, toward the outer land, starting with our own bodies and souls. Tucked somewhere in there we found a false identity, complete with nametags with our own names on it, a façade to myself and the world, projecting a persona that becomes an impregnable citadel, where all intruders are kept at bay.
But who can live out of his true self anyway, because until we find our lives which are hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3), we can do no better than to think in ourselves that we are alone in the universe, caught in good and evil – responsible to both!? That false persona then extends itself outward into the whole outer world. That is where the satanic false light, the dark light that entered our first father and mother in the fruit of the Tree, sets up shop. That dark light feeds and fuels this persona it has created with proud lies, that it is itself alone, entitled to what it wants, and that it only takes its own effort, ingenuity and whatever personal disguise is necessary to get it.
This “outer world” toward which we turned, is only a shell of the inner, and as is any shell, it has no real sustenance (ability to sustain and grow life) in it. Therefore, this “outer world” of our bodies and souls, the false sense of “self” the dark light uses our bodies and souls to generate, and all the “stuff” we think we need to preserve and add to our lives, is the ground we were sent out to till.
Farming the earth is only a temporary sustenance. The “temporary” has never been what the Lord God was looking for. “Temporary” is not the ultimate plan. All these histories in Genesis are talking less about individual histories, earthly real-estate or moral lessons, as they much more are presenting Christ to us in every facet.
God is not after, primarily, that we get our temporal sustenance. Certainly, He maintains us in every way in this temporary world, but that is not the point. Eternal Sustenance, farming of the Spirit, is His point. This type of farming can only come out in the new birth, and all these lessons are to awaken and enlighten that man. The old man does not get it. It is impossible for him. However, we are not the old, but the new, if we have been born again in Jesus Christ. We are in the fellowship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This new man is what we are addressing and describing.
As we are in the “Temporary” in the moment, it is also true that we are in the Eternal in the moment. The Lord God purposely through the fall sent us out to till that particular land, to the intent that we might find, by earnestly tilling that ground, the absurd futility of it. We are farming in soil that is spent, and will never bear fruit.
Of course, we find it is God’s perfect purpose that we come to know that the “shell” bears no real sustaining fruit, nor is it able to produce the satisfaction of life that we were seeking in it. It is like a meal that fills but has no lasting nutrients. It seems to fill us up, but after a time we feel the emptiness and the gnawing hunger again.
The GOD with Whom We Have To Do
The Lord God, Who is plural in Hebrew, Who is more than the human concept or experience of “personal entity,” is One. There is no other but He. “Besides Me there is no other.” Consider that statement in its literal meaning.
There is simply “no other” except Him, Who is eternally Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A description of this eternal Three Who are One God, is not possible. I know the stock answer and can recite it. But I would rather not, because this is beyond definitions – at this point they only cloud our understanding. Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a sense can only be lived, which is what Jesus promised in John 17 – we are one in them and they are one in us. I am only in awe at the mind-breaking, word-failing contemplation of this mystery. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
Outside of this God Who is All and in all, there is nothing. What is outside of or not included in “All?” There is no outside of God. There is no existence, no “being” except in Him, as a particular expression of Him, Who is the inner truth and reality of All, in every all. There is simply NO other! All the persons who live, have their being and their movement in this All and in all God.
All these “other persons” (human beings, angelic beings) are not “God” in the sense that they are not the source of their own being and life. However, in an operative and familial sense, all these persons have been created to show forth the glory and majesty of God.
However, to Man alone is given the glory of sonship, through Christ the Son, and as sons in The Son, each becoming co-heirs of all that to which The Son is heir. That does not mean that He keeps the Lion’s Share but throws out what He doesn’t want or need to the rest of us to share or fight over. On the contrary, this co-heir-ship means that each of us inherit it all, and this is a limitless All. That is what The Lamb inherited from His Father – the entire universe, and absolute authority over anything in that universe!
“By Him all things consist,” and therefore since we are in Christ and of Christ, nothing that is Christ’s is not also ours and at our disposal to expand further that which has no limit. Since His inheritance is limitless like a river that never runs dry, we can come every day to withdraw from our Father’s ATM, not only those things needful to sustain our bodies and souls, but everything up to and including ALL of it – everything in the account! And after we had withdrawn it ALL, our receipt would show that our balance is still, “ALL!” Of course we could never contain it, but that is the point. Because we are not hoarding for ourselves, food for others now becomes our main business.
Through the vision of God, which is our gift that enables us to see as God sees, we are able to penetrate past the outer shells and see the Father, above all, through all, and in all, through every form to its individual center. And there we see God purposely and intentionally, All in all, whether evil or good, darkness or light, hell or heaven – “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” (Ps 139:8) And because God is Love in Himself and only Love in all His outpourings of Himself, the “all” that we see manifest and unmanifest, no matter the source, is all God’s Love accomplishing only His Love purposes.
No matter how any creation may misuse itself or others, still the being of God in which all live and move and has existence, is only love coming through all things. It cannot be anything other. We are perhaps not far enough back from the canvas on which this is painted, to see how it is good and works the good of God. Still, no matter how far our sight could penetrate, God would be deeper still. And the younger and last is continually dying for the elder and the first. The Last Adam redeems and restores the First Adam. And in First Adam being raised into Second and Last Adam, only one Adam emerges – the Son of God, and the Seed of Christ, all the sons born in Him, a multitude no one can number.
So then, we come back to Cain, and are able to see that despite Cain’s personal consciousness of himself and who he is, Cain is a living expression of God, of the God Who expresses Himself in everything and is present in everything. Cain may not know it, but “Cain” is the life of God expressing in the land east of Eden, as a tiller of the soil and harvester of crops. Later on in the story we see all the descendents of Cain being the originators of various human endeavors — art, music, agriculture, etc., which are not just human inventions of course, but every one out of the limitless wonders of the eternal God. It is life-changing to see this, because historically those in Christ have always been somewhat ambivalent regarding the arts and sciences of this world. But what else could it be, but of God, that even in our weakened post-fall condition, man continually is discovering the world in which God placed Him, and finding nothing but wonder and awe at the genius of God’s creation? Music, art, ethereal things, all of these are also out of the wonders of God.
But in Cain’s personal consciousness — spirit/soul self-sense, he has been born in the serpent’s lie. Nevertheless, at his inner core there is also the Crusher of the serpent, Who seeks and desires to overcome the serpent in all men.
Abel, the second-born, tends the flock. He does not till the ground in an effort to make it produce for him. He simply tends sheep.
Now Cain is the first son of Adam, and is fit to be Adam’s first type, since Adam is also God’s first, recorded human son (Lk 3:38). It is here I have to interject that these stories begin to express this one theme, repeated over and over in scripture.
That is this: the first son, Adam, was cast out of the garden. But he was not cast out forever. Genesis 3:15 is the first hint of the way back. Still, he was not capable of returning to God on his own. His knowledge of the way back was irrevocably lost in his inner confusion and leanness of spirit.
He (in the many) had become Pharaoh’s lean cattle, who had wasted to nothing in the famine. And in Adam the famine is of the Word of God. Not the Bible of course, but the Word which had made all things, and had given Adam life in the beginning, but from whom Adam had turned away within, and in that turning away, he lost his consciousness of God, except for a whisper, and turned into a wraith. A place for the habitation of the devils that drove him.
The Lord God never ceased to have compassion for Adam, and to want him to come back to him and fulfill the purpose of his creation. But Adam could not escape the prison he had willingly entered. And this Adam is all men, of course, who have ever been born and ever lived.
But God tells us Cain’s and Abel’s stories to show that, from the foundation of the world, God has always sent One to seek and to save that which is lost. From the beginning He sent the Last Adam to redeem the First Adam.
We are used to thinking of Cain and Abel as first, a great example of salvation through forgiveness and grace, contrasted with salvation through man’s works.
Abel of course offered a blood sacrifice, an animal put to death not for its own corruption, but as a substitutionary scapegoat for the sins of those offering the sacrifice. This necessary scapegoat showed what a great Gulf had been opened between man and God in their departure from Paradise. Moreover, it demonstrates to what levels man had fallen, so far down in fact, that it took a Divine Death to restore him and bring him back into intimate fellowship with Himself, so that He might bestow Sonship on all Adam, as it was in the beginning.
But right here in this story, we are able to see with clear eyes Who is Christ and Who He had come to redeem and save. Abel offered a blood sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord, because it came out of a spirit of humility and repentance. Cain offered a sacrifice of his “works,” i.e., what he had earned by the sweat of his brow in their dry and parched land outside Paradise. This offering was displeasing to the Lord, even though Cain had done his best, because it did not come out of the same heart of humility and love that Abel’s did, but out of pride in his own accomplishments.
When Cain realized he had not been accepted of the Lord but Abel had, covetousness and jealousy rose up in him and in his hot wrath, he killed his brother Abel. And from then onward, wherever Cain wandered, he heard the cry of his brother’s blood coming out of the earth.
What blood was this? We are here first presented with the theme that runs from Genesis to Revelation, the Last shall be First, as well as the Seed of the Woman Who is sent to crush the head of the serpent in all men, through the shedding of His Blood and breaking of His Body, bringing them back into Himself.
Cain Is Not Cast Out Altogether
Cain is not a lost cause. In one way to look at the story, Cain is a “son of Belial,” and Abel is the son of God, persecuted and killed by the devil in “the sons of Belial, i.e., Cain. Abel’s shed blood is the precursor to the True Precious Blood, which would pour out of the Lord Jesus. Though it might be hard to see from the story, the simple fact is that Abel died for Cain’s sake. Abel is Christ Who died for our sins, Whose blood covers the very transgressors and their transgressions that nailed Him to the Cross and killed Him.
In short, Abel died for Cain. We look at Cain and almost see him as evil. Even Jesus comes close to saying that about Cain. We see pardon for his murder of Abel (Christ) as an impossibility. Cain seems to not find redemption, but bitterness and despair instead. Cain’s story recedes as we move on, but he remains a lost tragic figure as one who could have had it all, but let it slip from his hands because of sin which had mastered him, rather than Cain mastering sin, as the Lord God told him in Gen 4:6,7 –
“And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”
This is one of King James’ clumsiest verses. But the bottom line of the Word of God to Cain, was that he was to master sin, which attempted to rise up in him. Sin must not master him, but Cain master sin. Simple as that.
Even though this is how it seems when the story is over, we must see that Cain is not cast off altogether. Adam and Cain are the same. Both are sent out to wander and till the earth, being banished from the home of their origins, sent out, as NPG used to say, “out where the human cold winds blow.”
Adam and Eve were cast out of a much greater paradise than was Cain, but the result was the same. They are alone, even if there are others around. It is likely those others around might be our enemies, so we must be on guard. Wanderers and beggars in the earth, even though we might work very hard and be successful in the business of the world, and all men approve of me because of my accomplishments. It does not matter. It is all Adam sent out of Paradise into a land of rigor and pain, counterbalanced with all-too-fleeting seasons and moments of pleasure and joy.
We are far away – from ourselves, from God, from others, from society, alone and lost, unsure of the next step. No man will receive me because they see the mark in my forehead, and they know they have the same mark as well, so they give me a wide berth because they know themselves even as I know myself, murderer, sinner, defamer, tortured, wishing I could love and be loved. I wander lost and alone all through the world of Cain, seeing as Cain does, and seeing the mark everywhere on every head I see.
This is Cain and this is our father Adam, and it has been you and me. But above that, it has also been the “Son of Man who is come to seek and save that which is lost.” (Lk 19:10) That is who Abel is. Abel was not lost, Cain was. Therefore, it was Cain He came to seek and to save. When Cain rose up against his brother and slew him, Abel was not the loser. He died in the Lord and for the Lord. But he also died for Cain. Whether Abel had a conscious thought toward this we cannot know, except that He was borne by Another Who took the death into Himself, the Lamb! It was the Lamb in Abel that submitted to death for the sake of Cain. It is Cain He has His eye on, not Abel. Lost and wandering Adam, now billions of Adams and Cains all over this planet.
But then, Eve conceives again, bearing Seth. Eve says of her newborn, Seth (“Compensation”), “For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” (Gen 4:25) The Seed is Christ, passed through Eve to all her descendants, in the Spirit, but also and more preeminently in this case, it is the beginning of the line that would bring forth at the appointed time, He Who would restore all things. Seth is the beginning of the line that brought forth David and David’s Son and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Abel is Christ (the Seed) Who died for Adam-Cain, who is all of us. Seth is Christ Who rose to bring forth a spiritual line out of the physical line of Seth through Abraham, Isaac and Israel, sons who are not the sons of the flesh, or of the will of man, or of man’s blood, but of the Spirit of God. The last redeems the first.