Christians speak of salvation in Jesus Christ, but what about those who lived before the earthly life of Jesus? How did those people find salvation?
Before Jesus died for our sins, could people be saved? How?
In one sense, salvation has always been the same—it is by God's grace through faith. The major difference is that before Christ's earthly life, salvation was found in faith in the Lord. Adam and Eve, for example, had faith in God and fellowship with Him. Abraham trusted the Lord by faith. Hebrews 11 provides an entire chapter of people who followed the Lord by faith, not knowing the details of the Christ who would come.
The two consistent components are God and faith. For example, Psalm 2:12 noted, "Blessed are all who take refuge in him." This "refuge" was faith or trust in the Lord. This was not an ambiguous idea of God, but faith in the one God who created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them.
With the coming of Jesus, the content of faith became more specific, growing from belief in God and His ways to acceptance of the Son whom He sent as Savior. The promised Messiah had arrived. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system, the one Savior who permanently restores relationship with God.
Jesus spoke of this with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. There, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). The teachings from God revealed through Moses and the Prophets had been fulfilled in Jesus. Faith would need to be found in Him, the fulfillment of God's previous revelations concerning the Lord's Messiah.
With the completion of the New Testament writings, we now have far more information than previous generations who lived with little knowledge of Jesus. As Hebrews 1:1-2 says, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." We have all that is necessary to believe in Jesus Christ by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Prior to Jesus, salvation was based on faith in God and trust in His plan. Ultimately, it was still based on the death and resurrection of Christ, though God's followers did not know exactly how that would look. Today, knowing that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), the content of our faith is a bit more specific. However, faith is still the requirement for salvation, the object of our faith is still God, and the completer of our salvation is still Jesus.
Is it true that Jesus is the only way to heaven?
How does God judge people raised in non-Christian cultures?
How does God judge people raised in other religions or non-Christian cultures?
What is the eternal destiny of those who have never heard of Christ?
Is there an age of accountability in the Bible? What happens to babies that die?
Truth about Salvation