Salvation Before Christ
Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The question that’s often asked is, “What about the Old Testament saints?” Since Jesus hadn’t been born yet and His ministry did not yet exist, we cannot help but wonder how these people could have been saved. Or even if they were?
We find many scriptures in both the Old Testament and the New that give us clues as to the answer regarding their salvation. God tells us in Genesis 5:23-24, “Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared because God took him.” There is no doubt but that Enoch is with God in heaven. That he had been saved.
Another familiar story that shows salvation for Old Testament saints is found in 2 Kings, 2:11, “As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.” Proof positive that Elijah’s home is in heaven with God!
The New Testament gives us examples as well. In John 8:31-58, Jesus is explaining to the Jews that God is His Father. The Jews, in turn, declared Abraham as their father and did not believe what Jesus said to them about God being His Father. Then in verse 56, Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it [the coming of Jesus]
and was glad.”
Again, speaking of Abraham, Galatians 3:8, “What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago, when He said, ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’”
These passages and many more, show us that God’s plan for His chosen people has never changed. He made a way of salvation for them through the blood sacrifices that foreshadowed the one-time sacrificial death of Jesus.
God Provides a Way
The Old Testament saints heard of Jesus and looked forward to his coming. If, as God says, we come to the Father only through Jesus, then we can be assured that God must have told Enoch and Elijah about Jesus (and they believed that the future Jesus of Nazareth would be the promised Messiah). Otherwise, those who preceded Jesus’ time could not have gone to heaven.
There is no conflict in scripture regarding salvation for the Jews through Christ, and there is much evidence that God provided a way for them to believe in Jesus. Galatians 3:27-29 says, “And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Salvation is for all who believe in Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world.