How were people who lived before the time of Christ saved?

This article is from Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book—Collector’s Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008)
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Some say that those who lived before the time of Christ were saved by keeping the law. The Scriptures, however, say otherwise. First, the Bible from first to last demonstrates that the saved throughout history come to faith in exactly the same way—by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. The apostle Paul quotes the Old Testament extensively to drive home the reality that no one has been, or ever will be, declared righteous by observing the law (Romans 3:20).

Furthermore, Paul points to Abraham, the father of the Jews, to prove that salvation comes through faith apart from works that we perform. In his words, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6–9).

Finally, Jesus Christ is the substance that fulfills the types and shadows in the Old Testament (Luke 24:44; Romans 3:21–22; Hebrews 1:1–3). Each year the Jews celebrated the Passover to keep them focused on the One who was to come to die for their sins (1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:28, 39–40). As Hebrews says, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the realities themselves” (Hebrews 10:1). The Bible from first to last demonstrates that the saved throughout history come to faith in exactly the same way—by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.

Jesus Christ stands at the apex of history. Just as people today look back in history to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, so too people who lived before the time of Christ looked forward to his sacrifice for them.

For further study see Bruce Milne, Know the Truth (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press: 1998), pages 189–191.

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