How were the Old Testament saints redeemed when Christ had not yet come? What was the basis of their salvation? Today, R.C. Sproul identifies the one significant difference between our faith and the faith of ancient believers.
How were the people in the Old Testament redeemed? How were they saved? Did Abraham go to heaven? Was Abraham a believer? Was he redeemed? I say, “Yes, of course he was. The New Testament labors that point.” They say, “Well, how could the people in the Old Testament be redeemed when Christ hadn’t come yet? There was no cross. There was no atonement. How could they possibly be redeemed when the Bible tells us that the blood of bulls and goats, all of the trappings of the Old Testament sacrificial system, could not in and of themselves save?” So, how were they saved, if they were saved? Well, Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, again, uses Abraham as an example of people in the Old Testament who were saved, not by obeying the works of the law, not through the rites and the rituals of the sacrifices of the liturgy of Israel, but Abraham was justified by faith. And my students look at me, and they say, “How could he be justified by faith when he hadn’t even heard about Jesus? What was the basis of Abraham’s salvation?” Well, the basis of Abraham’s salvation was the work of Jesus Christ. Abraham was saved exactly the same way you are saved, with one significant difference. Abraham’s faith was in a promise that was not yet fulfilled. Our faith is in the promise that has been fulfilled. Abraham and the Old Testament saints looked ahead into the future for their awaited Messiah, their awaited Redeemer. We look backwards to the past to the One who has come.