From the Word
8 Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
Genesis 4:8–10, RSV
There is clearly pointed out to us here the truth of the resurrection of the dead. This element of doctrine and of hope is found in the fact that the Lord inquires concerning the dead Abel. God thereby declares himself to be the God of Abel, although now dead. Upon this passage we may establish the incontrovertible principle that, if there were no one to care for us after this life, Abel would not have been inquired for after he was slain. But God inquires after Abel even when he had been taken from this life; he has no desire to forget him; he retains the remembrance of him; God, therefore, is the God of the dead. My meaning is that even the dead, as we see here, still live in the memory of God who cares for them, and saves them in another life beyond and different from this corporal life in which saints suffer affliction.
This passage, therefore, is most worthy of our attention. A towering fact this, that Abel, though dead, was living and canonized in another life, more effectually and truly than those whom the pope ever canonized. The death of Abel was indeed horrible; he did not suffer death without excruciating torment, nor without many tears. Yet it was a blessed death, for now he lives a more blessed life than he did before. This bodily life of ours is lived in sin, and is ever in danger of death. But that other life is eternal and perfectly free from trials and troubles, both of the body and of the soul.
God inquires not after the sheep and oxen that are slain, but he does inquire after the men that are slain. Therefore men possess the hope of a resurrection. They have a God who brings them back from the death of the body unto eternal life, a God who inquires after their blood as a most precious thing. This is the glory of the human race obtained for it by the seed of the woman, which bruised the serpent’s head. For God, in answer to Abel’s faith in the promised seed, required the blood of the dead, and proved thereby to be his God still.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 90–91.
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