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How were people in the Old Testament saved?

q.gif (1639 bytes)  Was Noah, Moses, Abraham, and the rest of Old Testament greats, aware or concerned, or did they even know of eternal life?


a.gif (1659 bytes)   Acts 10:38-43 says, "How God anointed JESUS of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. TO HIM GIVE ALL THE PROPHETS WITNESS, THAT THROUGH HIS NAME WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHALL RECEIVE REMISSION OF SINS." Notice that ALL THE PROPHETS have witnessed of Jesus — that through His name people would receive remission of sins.

It seems to be a common problem that many Christians are confused over how Old Testament saints were actually saved. This problem should be a "wake-up call" to us today.

First, it means that our young people are not understanding clearly IN SUNDAY SCHOOL the Old Testament stories, and how those characters placed their faith in Christ. Many young people grow up thinking that Old Testament believers were saved by keeping the Law. A good Sunday School teacher will constantly point the students to Christ. But the sad fact is that there is probably a multitude of Sunday School teachers that really do not know themselves how Old Testament believers got saved.

Second, we have to realize that there are FALSE TEACHERS out there today teaching that people were saved by works (by keeping the Law) in the Old Testament. Sadly, there are even well-known defenders of the King James Version who are teaching that false doctrine today.

The way of salvation has always been through faith in the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, THEY LOOKED AHEAD BY FAITH TO THE MESSIAH that would come and shed His blood for their sins. Isaiah 53:1-6 says, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But HE WAS WOUNDED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and THE LORD HATH LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL." Isaiah 53:8-12 goes on to say, "He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: FOR THE TRANSGRESSION OF MY PEOPLE WAS HE STRICKEN. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when THOU SHALT MAKE HIS SOUL AN OFFERING FOR SIN, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: BY HIS KNOWLEDGE SHALL MY RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFY MANY; FOR HE SHALL BEAR THEIR INIQUITIES. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

So the Old Testament believers were looking ahead, and placing their faith in the Messiah who would come to offer up Himself for their sins. Today, WE LOOK BACK TO THE SAVIOR who did come and die for our sins. I Corinthians 15:3,4 says, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

So, whether looking ahead, or looking back, every saint of God has looked to the Savior to be saved.

There are many Old Testament passages to show that is what they were doing. Jesus said of Abraham, "Your father ABRAHAM REJOICED TO SEE MY DAY: and he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56). That occasion was probably up on the mountain when God told Abraham to offer up his only son to Him. Genesis 22:2 says, "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." Genesis 22:10-18 says, "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, SEEING THOU HAST NOT WITHHELD THY SON, THINE ONLY SON FROM ME. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, IN THE MOUNT OF THE LORD IT SHALL BE SEEN. And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And IN THY SEED SHALL ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED; because thou hast obeyed my voice."

The emphasis on Abraham loving the Lord so much that he was willing to give up his only son, was a beautiful picture of how the Father, because of His great love for man, would be willing to give up His Son to die for us. Romans 5:8 says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The Book of Hebrews tells us what Abraham expected would happen that day. He figured that he would have to offer up his son, and then God would raise Isaac from the dead. Hebrews 11:17-19 says, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: ACCOUNTING THAT GOD WAS ABLE TO RAISE HIM UP, EVEN FROM THE DEAD; from whence also he received him in a figure."

Notice that Abraham was obedient to the Lord, because he believed what the Lord had told him earlier, "That in Isaac shall thy seed be called." Abraham was not worried that Isaac was going to die and remain dead, because God had promised that through Isaac, his seed would be multiplied. For that to happen, Isaac would have to live.

Once again, what a picture of the resurrection of Christ was shown there. The Father was willing to give up His Son for our sins, but all along there was the assurance that Jesus would rise again from the dead. That truth was shown right in the Old Testament. Psalm 16:9,10 says, "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." The New Testament tells us that that passage was a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. Acts 2:25-32 says, "For DAVID SPEAKETH concerning him, I FORESAW THE LORD always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. THEREFORE BEING A PROPHET, AND KNOWING THAT GOD HAD SWORN WITH AN OATH TO HIM, THAT OF THE FRUIT OF HIS LOINS, ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, HE WOULD RAISE UP CHRIST TO SIT ON HIS THRONE; HE SEEING THIS BEFORE SPAKE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." So we see here that David also looked ahead and saw the day of the resurrection of the Messiah. (The word "hell" in that passage is used in the generic sense, and refers to the grave, not the place of fire and torment.)

Noah also looked ahead to the Messiah who would come, because he was a preacher, not just a carpenter or boat builder. II Peter 2:4,5 says, "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved NOAH THE EIGHTH PERSON, A PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." And we know that he preached the message of faith — not works. Hebrews 11:6,7 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith NOAH, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and BECAME HEIR OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS BY FAITH."

Moses also looked ahead in faith to the Messiah. Hebrews 11:24-27 says, "BY FAITH MOSES, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; ESTEEMING THE REPROACH OF CHRIST GREATER RICHES THAN THE TREASURES IN EGYPT: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, AS SEEING HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE."

Yes, the Old Testament saints thought about eternal life. Hebrews 11:8-10 says, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: FOR HE LOOKED FOR A CITY WHICH HATH FOUNDATIONS, WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER IS GOD." Abraham knew that there was nothing here that really satisfied. Abraham was looking ahead to eternity, and rejoicing that God had something sure prepared for him.

Spiritual believers in the Old Testament were concerned about the salvation of other souls, too. David in Psalm 51:12,13, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. THEN WILL I TEACH TRANSGRESSORS THY WAYS; AND SINNERS SHALL BE CONVERTED UNTO THEE."

Boaz recognized that Ruth had gotten saved. Ruth 2:11,12 says, "And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and A FULL REWARD BE GIVEN THEE OF THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL, UNDER WHOSE WINGS THOU ART COME TO TRUST." Boaz had heard about what happened when Naomi had prepared to leave the land of Moab. Ruth 1:14-16 says, "And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, BEHOLD, THY SISTER IN LAW IS GONE BACK UNTO HER PEOPLE, AND UNTO HER GODS: return thou after thy sister in law. And RUTH SAID, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for WHITHER THOU GOEST, I WILL GO; AND WHERE THOU LODGEST, I WILL LODGE: THY PEOPLE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, AND THY GOD MY GOD."

Even Solomon’s desire was to see people of other lands come to place their faith in the Lord. I Kings 8:41-43 says, "Moreover CONCERNING A STRANGER, that is not of thy people Israel, BUT COMETH OUT OF A FAR COUNTRY FOR THY NAME’S SAKE; (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name."

We understand that the Queen of Sheba got saved after coming and talking to Solomon. Matthew 12:41,42 says, "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. THE QUEEN OF THE SOUTH SHALL RISE UP IN THE JUDGMENT WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SHALL CONDEMN IT: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here." The account of her visit to Solomon is given in I Kings 10:1-9, "And when THE QUEEN OF SHEBA heard of the fame of Solomon CONCERNING THE NAME OF THE LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built, And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice."

Notice why she came to see Solomon: "And when THE QUEEN OF SHEBA heard of the fame of Solomon CONCERNING THE NAME OF THE LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions." Her questions dealt with THE NAME OF THE LORD. And the result? "And when the queen of Sheba had seen all... THERE WAS NO MORE SPIRIT IN HER." She had her "hard questions" answered, and she repented and was humbled. She was in awe of what God had done, and placed her faith in Him.

Isaiah talked about salvation. Isaiah 45:21,22 says, "Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; A JUST GOD AND A SAVIOUR; there is none beside me. LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Isaiah 43:10-12 says, "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOUR. I HAVE DECLARED, AND HAVE SAVED..."

Moses was also a man of faith, and knew about the Messiah who would die for the sins of the people. Deuteronomy 32:3,4 says, "Because I WILL PUBLISH THE NAME OF THE LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. HE IS THE ROCK, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." He understood fully what we are later told in the New Testament in I Corinthians 10:2-4, "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and THAT ROCK WAS CHRIST." It is no wonder that Moses was allowed to be there on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord in Luke 9:28-31, "And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were MOSES and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and SPAKE OF HIS DECEASE WHICH HE SHOULD ACCOMPLISH AT JERUSALEM."

After Jesus was risen from the dead, He pointed out all of these prophecies of Him in the Old Testament to the believers. Luke 24:44-47 says, "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written IN THE LAW OF MOSES, and IN THE PROPHETS, and IN THE PSALMS, CONCERNING ME. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

There it is, as clear as can be, just like Acts 10:43 says, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."

Have you repented of your sins and by faith accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?

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