Did the atonement apply to those who lived before the crucifixion of Christ?

The answer to this question is clear from Scripture. The people who lived in Old Testament times had the sacrificial system, but the blood of bulls and goats didn’t atone for anyone. These things pointed the people of Israel beyond themselves to an atonement that would satisfy the righteousness of God. The Old Testament person who trusted the promise of the work of the Messiah, even though that work had not yet been accomplished in space and time, was saved. The ground of that salvation was the work of Christ that was yet to come. Old Testament believers were saved by a faith that looked forward, while we are saved by a faith that looks backward. The objective ground for the salvation for both groups is the same—the atonement of Christ.

© 1996 by R.C. Sproul. Used by permission of Tyndale.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.