Salvation in the Old Testament

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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?

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.

Scroll to Top