Question: “Pastor I know that people in the Old Testament were not saved by faith and works as some people teach. But were they trusting in the future death burial and resurrection of the Messiah? Did they know He had to die for their sins? What specifically were they trusting? Also, since they were not sealed with the Holy Spirit were they still eternally secure? I know they went to paradise because the blood had not been offered yet. Thank you in advance.”
Answer: Salvation will always be the same; taking God at His Word regarding the finished work of Jesus Christ for the payment of sin. The Old Testament provides a wonderful picture of this “good news” which we call the gospel.
Scripture gives us clear look at what message was preached to the people in the Old Testament about eternal life and salvation. Galatians 3:8 remarks that Abraham heard and believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ that was preached to him by God. We know from Romans 4:3 and Romans 4:5 that Abraham believed the gospel of Jesus and that his faith was counted for righteousness. Abraham was in paradise according to the historical account of Lazarus and the rich man. Therefore, we can correctly conclude that Abraham’s belief of the promised Messiah making a payment for his sins yielded about eternal life.
Peter’s message to Cornelius and his house also shines light on what the Old Testament saints believed on for eternal life. Acts 10:43 states that all the prophets gave witness regarding Jesus and His work to pay for sins. Specifically, Peter says that only belief in Jesus Christ would bring the remission of sins necessary to receive eternal life.
I believe the strongest support that the Old Testament believers had to place their faith in Jesus Christ is in Numbers 21:4-9. The story goes that the Israelites complained about being led into Egypt by God. They questioned God’s intentions and surmised that they would die because of God. They hungered for food and water. In response to their complaining, God sent serpents with a venomous bite to plague the people. They began to die and needed a cure! They recognized their sin against God but still lacked a cure for their deadly wounds. Moses was instructed to make an image of the serpents and then place it on a pole. All those who simply looked upon the serpent were healed of their wounds. They would not die from that deadly bite.
I believe this is the strongest proof that salvation was always belief on Jesus Christ because Jesus calls back to this account in John 3:14. He draws the comparison between the serpent on the pole and Himself on the cross. Both were necessary to cure man of his ailment. The serpent on the pole cured the Israelites of their deadly bite. Jesus on the cross paid for the sins of all mankind. Friend, that is more than a powerful illustration. It is the whole plan of salvation. Wonderful, merciful, Savior!
Old Testament saints had the gospel of Jesus Christ’s work preached to them. I believe the New Testament examples prove this well. There is no Scriptural support for the Holy Spirit sealing Old Testament saints, but we see that God was faithful to fulfil His promise. Regardless of the Holy Spirit seal, Old Testament saints were moved to paradise upon their earthy death and then brought forth with Jesus after His glorious work on the cross was completed. I pray this has adequately answered your question, brother!