Early in the life of this blog, Stu asked this question.
If salvation is only attained through faith in Jesus Christ, how were people in the Old Testament saved, ie before Jesus’ death and resurrection? Were they able to (do so) through obeying the Old Testament laws? If not how else would they be saved?
I thought it would be good to revisit these questions.
() Jesus said to him, “I am l the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (7) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
(8) Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (9) Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
One assumes that this question is asked in the light of this exclusive claim of Christ in response to Philip’s question. This claim eliminates all other ‘religious’ pathways to God and indeed, excludes all other so called prophets and deities.
Jesus is held dear by many for his loving, compassionate and forgiving ways, but one must come to grips with this claim. Either he was God incarnate or he was a mad liar. We hold that Jesus was and is who he claims to be, the Son of God incarnate, very God and very man.
Back to the question. In the light of this claim of Christ, how did people prior to Jesus redeeming work on the cross get to heaven; were they saved some other way? I like the way John MacArthur answers this question.
Everyone is saved through Christ. He died for the sins of the world. For them, it was future. For us, it is past, but it was still through Christ. It was His death, His sacrifice. It atoned for the sins of the OT saints as well as the NT saints. And, every time they sacrificed a lamb, and every time they sacrificed a ram, and every time they sacrificed a turtle dove or a pigeon, every time they sacrificed any animal, it was the picture of Christ, the picture of Christ, the picture of Christ. So, they had to know that there was coming one who would pay the penalty for their sins, one ultimate sacrifice. Christ, alone, can save.
Now, the means for salvation has always been the same: Faith. And, at any given point in the unfolding revelation of the Word of God, salvation came through faith, believing God. Abraham believed God. It was counted him for righteousness. What did he believe? He believed as much as God had revealed. And, God had revealed even by that time that he was sinner and that the only savior was God, and that God would pay the penalty for his sin. Now, he didn’t understand all there was to know about Jesus Christ, but he understood enough to know that he was a sinner and needed a savior and God would provide a savior. That is why it says in , that Moses could foresee Christ, even Moses.
So, I believe, the OT people were saved by faith in God. They believed God’s word as much as was revealed to them, and knew their own sinfulness. In fact, the reason they would carry out the sacrifices, and the reason they would do all the things God told them to do was an outworking of an inward faith. It was not to earn salvation. It was to demonstrate the reality of it. They were saved by faith in Christ. They didn’t know who Christ was. And, they didn’t know specifically when and how and all of that, but they believed God. They were sinful, and God would have to provide a sacrifice for them.
The same promise repeated throughout the Old Testament—that God will be our God and we will be his people—is also repeated in the New Testament. At the end of the age, when Old Testament and New Testament believers alike stand before their Redeemer, we are told that “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” ().
What do you think?
Did people prior to the cross earn entrance to Heaven by keeping the law?
Has God changed the rules?
Or perhaps there’s two ways to Heaven – if we keep the law God might accept us – hmmm!
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.