This issue looks at how people were saved before Christ.
SINCE YOU ASKED
While many people are confused about how people are “saved” (spiritually) today, even more are confused about the process for people in Old Testament times. Jesus clearly spelled the method out when He said, “He who believes [in Him] has eternal life (John 6:47). “Believing” means trusting in Him alone for salvation. But what about those who lived before He came on the scene?
Were Old Testament folks, especially the Jews, saved by keeping the Law as many believe? Not according to the Bible. It says that Old Testament folks were saved in the same way New Testament Folks were saved-by believing in the Messiah who would atone for their sins. We look back to Christ’s finished work on the cross. Those before Christ looked forward to it. It’s that simple. God’s method of salvation never changed. If this is true, there must have been people in Old Testament times who were telling of the coming Messiah. This is exactly what happened. The 10th chapter of Acts provides an example:
“Of Him [Jesus Christ] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43)
This profound verse tells us that every prophet who ever lived has testified that believing in Jesus is the requirement for salvation. From the first prophet to the last, the message was the same. They told of the one who would come, paying for their sins with His own blood. Another verse takes it a step further.
But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah should suffer, He has thus fulfilled (Acts 3:18, italics mine).
This verse tells us that all the prophets also told of Jesus’ suffering. Think about that. The prophets preached the same gospel Christians proclaim today. But what about those who lived before the prophets? Let’s consider Abraham. We know that God spoke to him often, but what did He tell him? What was the message he passed on to his children, and spread throughout the region in his wanderings throughout the land of promise? In Galatians 3:8, Paul writes:
The Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: All nations will be blessed through you.
God didn’t just tell Abraham where to go, what to do, or how He would bless the world through him. God explained the gospel to Abraham, just as He did to the prophets. It is not unreasonable to assume that Abraham explained it to his children and to those living in the land. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Abraham preached of the coming Messiah just as the prophets did.
But what about those before Abraham? Consider this passage:
…in order that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the house of God (Luke 11:49-51).
These verses identify Abel as the first prophet. Since Acts 10:43 refers to all the prophets, Abel also testified of Jesus, the Messiah who would one day come. The logical conclusion is that there has never been a generation that has not heard the gospel.
AS I SEE IT
This little adventure through the Bible reveals the unwavering consistency of God. From the first verse to the last, the message is the same. Even though He used forty different authors in three different languages on three different continents over 1500 years, the unity attests to the uniqueness of this amazing book.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.