In the week prior to Resurrection Sunday, the minds and hearts of all born-again believers turn to the marvelous redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in His sacrificial death. It offers a great opportunity to consider the means of salvation throughout time–beginning in the Old Testament. A friend from long ago sent some very pertinent questions my way, so I have decided to share my response with the readers of my web site.
- Where does the OT talk about giving the nations an opportunity to repent?
- Long before Israel existed—the time of the early patriarchs—Job 28:28 speaks of men fearing the Lord and “turning from evil” (= repenting of evil).
- Job 42:6 reveals Job’s repentance—not a repentance of salvation, but a repentance of a believer who had sinned.
- Deuteronomy 30:10 provides instruction regarding Israel’s potential for true repentance—the majority were unbelievers and needed salvation. This passage in Deuteronomy 30 provides a preview of the New Covenant.
- According to Psalm 7:16-13, the peoples (not Israel) who are identified as Israel’s enemies will be called to account by God, who will judge them. However, there is opportunity to repent and they will be judged only if they do not repent.
- Psalm 22:27 talks of all the earth’s nations turning to the Lord and worshiping Him.
- Jesus Himself says that Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah (Matt 12:41; Luke 11:32; see Jonah 3:8-10)—His commentary on the OT gives us the most accurate commentary available.
- In Luke 24:46-47 Jesus declares that the nations have the opportunity to repent on the basis of His death and resurrection from the time those redemptive events occur (cp. Acts 11:18; 17:30; 26:20). Interestingly, this appears in a context of Jesus spelling out what the OT says about Him from Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44-45).
- Is faith in the OT based upon what a person understands about God? Pre-Mosaic or Mosaic, could they truly understand the Jesus of the NT or have enough knowledge of the Messiah? How were people saved from pre-Flood to prophetic times?
- Job’s concept of a Redeemer and redemption (as early, if not earlier than Abraham) comprises the topic of my paper, “Job 33 for Mighty Men” (Mighty Men is a leadership training program in our church and I revised an earlier more technical paper to provide this for the men).
- My journal article in the Master’s Seminary Journal titled “Living a New Life: Old Testament Teaching about Conversion” 11, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 19-38 takes the topic further, searching the OT for examples of conversion and classifying the elements of each account.
- At the most recent Shepherd’s Conference (March 2014) I presented a seminar on “What Nicodemus Should Have Known: Rediscovering the New Birth in the Old Testament” in which I argue for Psalm 87 being the primary OT text dealing with regeneration.
- Yet another paper, for the Evangelical Theological Society (2011), titled “Conscience, Oral Tradition, Natural Religion, or Later Insertion?: Unwritten Revelation in Genesis 1-11”, takes a look at pre-Flood revelation and its content (including sacrifices).
- Last, but certainly not least, another journal article in the Master’s Seminary Journal titled “Penal Substitution in the Old Testament” 20, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 149-69, explains the detail with which the OT provides more than adequate revelation on this topic from earliest times. One of the most powerful occurs in Isaiah 53.
My conclusion overall, on the basis of OT and NT alike: salvation has always been by faith alone in the Messiah (whether looking forward to Him, as in Gen 3:15, or back to the completion of His work) as the sole object of faith—believing that the Messiah would suffer, die as a vicarious sacrifice, and rise again from the dead according to the Scriptures, to provide salvation from sin for Gentiles and Jews alike. Both Acts 26:22-23 and 1 Peter 1:9-12 demonstrate this detailed knowledge proclaimed by Moses and all of the OT prophets. No one, from Adam until now, or from now on until Christ’s full program of redemption is completed, has ever, is ever, or will ever be saved any other way by any other gospel.