How Were the People Who Lived before the Time of Christ Saved?

Paul Tambrino, EdD, PhD

Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino

Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.

Question #10 – How Were the People Who Lived before the Time of Christ Saved?


The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, informs us that the saved throughout history come to saving faith in exactly the same way, by the grace of God alone, through faith alone on account of Christ alone.

Those who lived before Christ were not saved, as some suppose by keeping the law.

The apostle Paul extensively quotes the Old Testament to drive home the point that no one has ever been declared righteous, nor ever will be declared righteous by observing the law.

20) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.Romans 3:20 (KJV)

Paul also points to Abraham, the father of the Jews, to argue that salvation comes through faith apart from works.

3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.Romans 4:3 (KJV)

6) Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

7) Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

8) And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

9) So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.Galatians 3:6-9 (KJV)

Jesus Christ is the substance that fulfills the types and shadows in the Old Testament.

44) And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.Luke 24:44 (KJV)

21) But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22) Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:Romans 3:21-22 (KJV)

1) God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3) Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:Hebrews 1:1-3 (KJV)

Furthermore, each year the Jews celebrated Passover to keep them focused on the One who was to come to die for their sins.

7) Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:1 Corinthians 5:7 (KJV)

28) Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.Hebrews 11:28 (KJV)

It is Jesus Christ, and none other, who stands at the apex of history.

Just as we today look back in history to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our salvation, so too the people who lived before Christ looked forward to His sacrifice for their salvation.

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Image Credit

Left wing of an altarpiece with the meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek (inner wing) and Synagoga (outer wing), anonymous, c. 1510 – c. 1520. The Rijksmuseum. SK-A-866.

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