"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." ~ Acts 10:43

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Old Testament Saints: What Changed?

1. Introduction
2. By Faith Alone
3. Animal Sacrifices?
4. Abraham's Bosom?
5. Conclusion


Sometimes people wonder how the Old Testament saints went to heaven if Jesus died for everyone's sins after their existence. It seems a bit weird to think about considering that there was an old covenant and Jesus brought in the new one which is the better one. Was there any real difference? Was there some waiting queue to heaven? Remember that what is impossible for men is possible for God. We will explore some proof texts in the Scriptures showing us that indeed the gospel is everlasting and that the mode of salvation has been and is and always will be the same: by trusting on the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who justifies the ungodly, alone. The reason this is covered is because there are some who believe that God can change, God will change the gospel through works, and effectively, this is sneaking works through the backdoor.

By Faith Alone

Asides from the many appearances of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, it is clear that the Old Testament saints had to trust on the coming Messiah to justify them. It does not take long in the Bible to see that some men began to call upon the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.
Genesis 4:26

If one remembers, calling upon the name of the Lord is what saves a person (synonymous to having faith), which is also quoted in the book of Joel, an Old Testament prophet.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
Joel 2:32


And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Acts 2:21


For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10:13

It seems even as old as time, people knew that in order for one to be justified, he would have to call upon the name of the Lord. The only difference is they did not know his name yet. In the New Testament, we have the answer.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

The name of Jesus Christ is above all every name. This was not revealed to the Old Testament saints directly but what they knew was a Saviour who was to come. They trusted on the Lord himself, who promised them a redeemer who was to come.

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:6


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

It should be noted that this right here is clear enough to tell us Abraham's faith alone counted as righteousness. Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. All it took was faith to justify him before the Lord. He did not have to prove himself righteous through works. David too, was justified the same way, as he knew when he wrote in Psalm 32.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Psalm 32:1-2


Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Romans 4:6-8

In short, these men were looking forward to a promised Messiah, and put all their faith on him. We may look back to the Messiah who came and died for all of our sins, but these men were looking forward to the one who would come, as he was written about all throughout the Old Testament. One old man in Jerusalem during the time of Christ, Simeon, knew.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
Luke 2:25-26

He'd go on and bless the baby Jesus, knowing who he was exactly.

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Luke 2:28-32

He calls him the Lord's salvation, and a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel. He was the culmination of whom the Old Testament saints were looking for. Until Jesus died on the cross and rose again, they were still technically living in the Old Testament. Jesus would expound to his believers later that all the law and the prophets and the writings were written about him.

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

The New Testament apostles would then expound this fact and write about Jesus after he has ascended into heaven, so that they would let everyone know that the gospel is everlasting, and that all that was in the Old Testament was indeed about him, and those who put their faith on him would be justified, the same way we are today. The book of Hebrews is also very clear about this, chapter 11 particular listing many Old Testament saints who were justified by faith and did their acts based upon their faith alone. It would be impossible to please God without faith.

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Hebrews 11:5-6

Animal Sacrifices?

And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.
Leviticus 4:35

Then what exactly was the point of all those animal sacrifices? If all it took was faith for man to be justified in the Old Testament, then why would God have instituted animal sacrifices? It seems like a very strange practice if it was not going to forgive sins, or did it? It seems the very purpose of offerings were for many reasons, primarily to, in fact, make an atonement for a person's sin or uncleanness. Depending on what was being forgiven, different animals were required of the person. While this was institutionalised with priests and altars and all the ordinances from the law, we see this also from Genesis, where Abel actually offers a lamb even before animals were allowed to be eaten.

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
Genesis 4:4

Noah, after the flood, took of every clean beasts and fowls and offered them on the altar in Genesis 8:20. Abraham would do the same as well, especially after he finds a ram after attempting to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to the Lord's test. Some may think that this was a required act in order to justify man before God, that some animals may take away a person's sin. However, God says something else.

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
Isaiah 1:11


He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
Isaiah 66:3


For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Hebrews 10:4

God does not necessarily delight in their sacrifices. In fact, it was not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins. It is not so much that those offerings were a perpetual payment of one's sins, but some form of an appeasement for one's immediate sins. We can see the act was continual, as it was mandated in Exodus 30:10, that there was a sin offering done once a year amongst many other ordinances that were commanded to the Old Testament people. It would not make a person righteous before the Lord.

There is a difference between the forgiveness and remission of sins, the latter which is used 8 times in the New Testament. One can forgive a person for his trespasses for the thing he has done, but it does not mean all of the debts of his sins are paid for. When we see Romans 6:23, it clearly states that the wages of sin is death. What is clear is that all the Old Testament saints did die bodily, as they are no more, as they were sinners in the flesh. Remission, however, means that one's sins are paid in full, and that is not what the sacrifices of atonement did.

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6


But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Matthew 9:13

Above all, he desired mercy, not sacrifice. In addition to not desiring sacrifice, one has to remember that sacrifices were not only done to make burnt offerings for one's atonement of sins, but also to express one's form of gratitude. It seems the one that Noah gave unto the Lord after getting off the ark was one of gratitude, as he found grace and therefore was a man of faith, and it pleased the Lord and gave a sweet savour. In those cases, the animals were allowed to even be eaten by the Levites after the offering was done, unlike sin offerings.

And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
Genesis 8:20-21


By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Hebrews 13:15-16

As we know, it is impossible to please God without faith. What then did the altars do? What was their purpose then? It seems for the offerings that atoned sacrifices, they were pointing to something greater. It was an ordinance that was instilled by the Old Testament saints pointing towards a greater offering that would be the fulfilment of all the laws and diverse ordinances, which was what they believed on.

Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
Hebrews 9:9-10


The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
John 1:29

Ultimately, the sacrifices were pointing towards Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice. It could not make him that did the service perfect. It was imposed on them until Christ came and fulfilled it. In fact, Jesus is called the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He was the one sacrifice that needed to be done to pay for everyone's sins. The fact that nobody does animal sacrifices, not even the Jews who don't even believe on Christ, shows that something was done to take away the carnal ordinances that once were.

The animal sacrifices were symbolic ultimately, to show the harsh reality of what one's sins entailed, the consequences of it being death, and that in order to justify one before God, somebody else had to take that punishment in his stead. That would be Jesus, who became the ultimate sacrificial lamb, the firstfruit of God, his only begotten Son, sent here to take man's sins and pay for it (remission). Animal sacrifices surely did atone, a way to appeal to God, as an ordinance and a commandment, but it would not wash away the person's sins and could not pay for it as an animal is not man. Only the perfect man, Jesus Christ, could have done such a thing, to wash our sins away.

Abraham's Bosom?

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:22-23

Some people might claim that the Old Testament saints were in a separate compartment of the underground called 'Abraham's bosom' and were waiting for Christ to justify them and take them into heaven. However, careful examination of the Scriptures will show that this is not only false but also indefensible. To make things more confusing, some even see it as a prison paradise, if that in any way makes any sense.

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Luke 23:43

Some may see paradise being distinct from heaven for some reason, and seeing how technically Jesus and the thief on the cross were still in the Old Testament then before Christ fulfilled it. However, paradise is just a fancy word for garden, and Jesus was said to be alongside the thief in paradise while he took our sins in hell for 3 days.

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2 Corinthians 12:1-4

In order to get the answer, we should let the Bible define itself. Paul also talks about a man who got taken up to third heaven, and equates it with paradise, thus defining Biblically that paradise simply means heaven. How then can one say that Jesus was both in hell and in heaven then? It wouldn't make sense to some if Jesus was simultaneously in hell for three days and with the thief on the cross in heaven. We first need to remember some traits of God for this to make sense.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Ephesians 4:8-10


Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
Psalm 139:7-8


Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
John 3:9-13

Since Jesus is God, he cannot be limited by the confines of man, be it space or time. Of course, Nicodemus was very confused at Jesus' saying of being born again, because he could not understand the spiritual connotations from it. Jesus would then tell him that, and then in verse 13 speaks something spiritual, where he says that the Son of man came down from heaven, which is in heaven, which is in the present tense. Jesus, being God, can also be omnipresent, as he can be everywhere at the same time, even being on the earth as man as well, practising his human limitations while he came as the suffering servant. This is why the thief on the cross could be in paradise (heaven) with Jesus, while also being in hell for three days. But what do we make of Ephesians 4:8 talking about leading people from captivity?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Luke 4:18-19


For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45


Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
Romans 6:16-18

Some people may say that Jesus preached the souls of Old Testament saints in captivity in some prison underground, but what exactly were they in prison for? They've trusted on the Lord Jesus Christ, who even preached the same gospel while he was on earth when it was still technically the Old Testament. There should not be saints who were in hell, as they were justified, nor in any kind of prison or captivity.

Jesus said that his mission to preach deliverance to captives seems to be a preaching of redemption, for people who are enslaved not by the physical Roman Empire, as many people had hoped their Messiah to do, but to lead them away from the bondage of sin. Jesus came to be the ransom to pay for everyone's sins. Paul even clarifies this by saying that sin has put us into bondage in Romans 6, and that we should no longer serve sin. Leading captivity captive would mean those who served sin would be set free through his redemption.

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:23


Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:44, 46, 48

It does not make sense that 'Abraham's bosom' is both paradise and a prison. How does that even make sense? Why would Old Testament saints being a prison and a paradise at the same time? What were they waiting for? What word is associated with everlasting torment and fire? In English, we think of hell. The rich man opened his eyes and he ended up in hell. It wouldn't make sense for the righteous Lazarus to end up in some prison along with Abraham. They are comforted in heaven, not in hell.

The Greek would say 'Hades', but the English rendition of the place where there is fiery torment and darkness as 'hell' is correct. Whether you think this underground place where the dead goes is 'hades' or 'sheol' or 'Gehanna' or 'Tartarus', they all refer to the same English word, 'hell'.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
Isaiah 14:15

This is where Lucifer, the devil, is going to be sent to: hell, the sides of the pit. This word is 'Sheol' in Hebrew. Let us see where else 'Sheol' is mentioned in the Old Testament and the other words that one may use to distinguish it from 'hell' and see if they are indeed different places.


For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
Deuteronomy 32:22


And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
Numbers 16:32-33


But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Matthew 5:22


And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Matthew 5:29


And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Matthew 11:23


For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
2 Peter 2:4

It seems safe to say then that all these places, when read in context and description of what they are, all describe this fiery pit of darkness that describe the same place under the earth, and that is hell. There is no mention of the underground of the earth being compartmentalised, but the Bible is consistent about where and what this place is. Saying 'hades' in English would give people quizzical looks as in this language it would refer to some Greek mythological place and a deity of the underworld, but saying hell would let everyone know exactly what you mean. Abraham's bosom is not hell, and the rich man himself was in hell, while Lazarus was comforted and was not. But how exactly did the Old Testaments get to heaven immediately if Jesus did not come and die on the cross until the time he came? Were they waiting in a queue?

That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
Ecclesiastes 3:15


But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
2 Peter 3:8

God has no limitations, not by the constraints of time nor space. In order for God to send prophecies of future to the prophets, the future itself had to have existed in some way or form, since God can see the past, present, and future. Humanity remains in a single line where time goes in one direction and there's nothing we can do to change that.

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
Romans 16:25


But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
1 Corinthians 2:7


According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Ephesians 1:4


In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
Titus 1:2


And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Revelation 13:8

All of this, as Paul writes in multiple epistles, says that God promised eternal life before the foundation of the world. John also writes the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. This also means that God has fulfilled everything from the beginning of time, including Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, and his second coming, and all of it, as God is timeless, but we humans can only experience life one second at a time, and it only moves forwards. There was no waiting line to enter into paradise. The Old Testament saints believed in the Lord who justified them, Jesus Christ, and went straight to heaven, where there are no time or space limitations.

So what is Abraham's bosom? It's just literally Abraham's bosom. It's not a place but a person's literal bosom. The reason Lazarus in that parable went to his bosom is because he suffered so much in his life, where only the dogs were his friends, that in heaven, he fulfilled the first shall be last and the last shall be first, as he who was the least on earth yet trusted in the Lord became one of the greater saints, as he went to heaven in the bosom of his forefather Abraham. Do we not have a saint we'd love to meet the most when we get to heaven? Man will only go to one of two places when he dies: heaven or hell, and it will be instantaneous.

Conclusion: It was the same gospel all along

Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 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. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
Galatians 3:6-9

From the clear teachings of Scriptures, we conclude that salvation of the Old Testament saints were the same as how it is today. Jesus preached the same gospel as the one that we believe in now, which shows while he was technically living in the Old Testament, the same requirement was required for those who were with him on earth and walked with him. Paul writes strongly in Galatians 1 that if anyone, even an angel, preaches any other gospel, let him be accursed, twice. Sneaking works requirement and somehow stating that the Old Testament saints were different would also mean God also changes and he would not be the same God we worship. Just as Jesus Christ does not change (Hebrews 13:8), the same goes for his words, which is the gospel, and cannot be changed, nor can God change his promise. The Old Testament saints looked forward to the coming Christ, and we look back at the cross, and we look forward to his second coming.

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