God’s reply to Cain’s semi-veiled accusation that God was supposed to be Abel’s caretaker and somehow failed in doing so was to highlight the distinction between spirit and body. God put the onus back on Cain by revealing that Abel’s blood was crying out to him from the ground. First of all, notice God does not say Abel’s body was crying out from the ground; it was his blood that cried out because, as always throughout the Bible—in the sacrificial system and through the NT—blood represents life, which is the person’s spirit. It is the spirit that animates the flesh, and Leviticus 17:11 tells us that the life of the flesh is in the blood.

So Abel’s spirit is linked here still with physical creation. It had been immediately linked with his physical body. Physical death shows the separation of spirit from body. Yet, God intervenes to keep that separation from being a total immediate separation. He does so for the sake of his restoration plan. By definition, humans are a necessary combination of spirit and physical. The spirit cannot exist without the physical and still be considered human. Therefore, if at physical death, the spirit leaves the body to be completely exclusive of the physical, its humanity would be lost. But God, in his restoration plan for the faithful spirit to be restored to a redeemed body, maintains (cares for) that spirit separated in death by still continuing its connection with the physical realm. Thus, Abel’s blood (life or spirit) calls out to God from the ground (it’s now more general, broader (less specific) physical home.

The Bible does not explain clearly how this connection is maintained or specifically where it is. Yet it does speak to a continued connection. The Old Testament calls the place of dead spirits Sheol. The word sheol is linked to words meaning valley or hollow, thus indicating some subterraneous pit (see Gesenius’s Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon). The Bible also talks of those who died in faithful connection to God to be in Abraham’s bosom—a place that seems connected yet separated from the non-faithful spirits’ suffering in what is traditionally called hell (Luke 16:19–31). These underworld places seemingly show connection to this earth, yet not in the normal sense of spirit with individual bodies. Without more biblical description or definition, it is impossible to say more that would not be mere speculation. However, the connection after physical death of the spirit still with the earth (physical) does make philosophical sense in maintaining the human construct for God’s purpose both for ultimate restoration of the faithful to “new” individual bodies (2 Cor 5:4) and the ultimate destruction of the unfaithful in the “second” death—a final forced separation of spirit from the physical as portrayed in the lake of fire’s destruction (Revelation 20:13–15).

So, God maintains this connection of spirit with the physical essence. And therefore, although the individual body (part of this cursed [separated] essence) is lost to the spirit, God never violates his Covenant-of-Life obligation in caring for the spirit that depends on him. We see that afterlife connection again in Revelation 6: 9–10. There, like Abel, the souls “under the altar” are crying out. The altar represents this world whose sin influence has killed these spirits of faith. And the souls there also cry for God’s justice in making things right.

That cry of Abel’s spirit—that cry for justice—showed a continued dependence and expectation by his spirit that God would continue his care to make things right. Through Adam and Eve’s wrong activity, their physical essence was cursed, separated from God. But God remained (and remains) faithful in caring for the spirit despite the failure of the flesh. So although Abel’s body died, his spirit was still under the faithful care of his God, still speaking faith in dependence on that care. That’s what Hebrews 11:4b explains: “Even though he [Abel] is dead, he still speaks through his faith.” In other words, though his body is dead, his spirit remains alive because of his faith and God’s promise to those of faith. That picture is the same one we see in Revelation 6:11 as those spirits under the altar who cry for justice are given “white robes,” symbolic of the righteous reward in God’s care that came through Christ’s redemption.