How Were People Saved Before Jesus Came? -- By: Bob Bryant

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 16:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: How Were People Saved Before Jesus Came?
Author: Bob Bryant


How Were People Saved Before Jesus Came?

Bob Bryant

Cypress Valley Bible Church
Marshall, Texas

I. Introduction

How were people saved before Jesus came? Some suggest that people were saved by sincerely responding to what God had revealed to them at that time. They assert that this revelation did not include the need to believe in Christ. This idea has led some to suggest that if God saved people back then who did not believe in Christ, then He does the same today. This suggestion should make us uncomfortable and force us to find biblical answers to the following two questions: “How were people saved before Jesus came?” and “How did people know how to be saved before Jesus came?”

II. How Were People Saved Before Jesus Came?

To answer the first question, let’s allow the Bible to eliminate some suggested answers and then let’s look for the Bible’s answer, one step at a time.

A. Not Saved by Sacrifices, Law Keeping, or Good Works

Some suggest that before Jesus came people were saved by offering animal sacrifices. However, the Bible states, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb 10:4). Others argue that before Jesus came people were saved by keeping the OT law. But the Bible says, “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight…” (Rom 3:20). Some say that before Jesus came, people were saved by doing good works. However, the Bible makes clear that “…all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags…” (Isa 64:6). Therefore, before Jesus came, people were not saved by offering animal sacrifices, by keeping the law, or by doing good works.

B. Saved on the Basis of Christ’s Death

Having eliminated these answers, let’s now consider the Bible’s claim that people have always been saved on the basis of Christ’s death for their sins. This includes those people who lived before He died. The Bible speaks of Jesus as “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). In the mind of God, Christ’s death was as good as done, even before the world was created. Some 800 years before Jesus died, Isaiah wrote of His death in the past tense, “…the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). Paul says, “Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the si...

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