It’s a fair question: How were Israelites saved in the Old Testament? The rationale behind the question mostly stems from the fact that we, as New Testament believers, can look back at the Person and Work of Jesus for our salvation. However, what if you lived during a time when Jesus hadn’t arrived, namely, the period of the Old Testament? Were you saved by your obedience to the Law? Did God just give everyone a “free pass” until Christ arrived? How did salvation work for those who were still waiting for the gospel of Jesus?
One of my favorite responses to this question is from Old Testament and Biblical Theology scholar Graeme Goldsworthy. In his must-read work Gospel and Kingdom he writes:
From man’s point of view we see the Scriptures unfold a step-by-step process until the gospel is reached as the goal. But from God’s point of view we know that the coming of Christ to live and to die for sinners was the pre-determined factor even before God made the world. We must not think of God trying first one plan and then another until he came up with the perfect way of salvation. The gospel was pre-ordained so that at the exact and perfect time God sent forth his Son into the world.