Q&A: Old Testament Saints

Old Testament Saints

Question

Where will the Children of Israel (those of the Jewish nation) that died before Christ spend eternity? I understand that the tabernacle was built for God to dwell and the burnt offering was for the atonement of their sins. However, in John 14:6 says that no one comes to the father except through Jesus, but Jesus had not come yet. Also, where will those that weren't Jews spend eternity?

Answer

Absolutely no one comes to the Father excepth through Christ (John 14:6), meaning in the context of John 14 that no one can take up residence in the Father's house (heaven) unless Jesus prepares a place for him and receives him (John 14:2-3). At the time Jesus taught this, he had not yet been crucified, so it would have been quite natural for his disciples to understand these words in referrence to the Old Testament saints, even though it may seem odd for us to think in these terms today. All Old Testament believers (e.g. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.) who died before Christ were saved in Christ by faith (e.g. John 5:46; 1 Pet. 1:10-12), just as believers are saved today. The sacrifices in the tabernacle were not themselves an effective means of atonement (Heb. 10:1-4; cf. Rom. 8:1-4; Heb. 9:13-14), and by the same reasoning neither were prior sacrifices (e.g. Abraham was counted righteous by God because of his faith, not because he offered sacrifices [Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6]). Rather, they pointed to Christ, who was the sufficiency behind those sacrifices (Heb. 9:1-15).

Old Testament believers had far less knowledge of Christ than we do (they did not know he was Jesus of Nazareth, for example), but they trusted God and him alone for their salvation (Heb. 11). As Hebrews 11:39-40 teaches, God did not fulfill the ultimate promises to the Old Testament saints before Christ because he wanted to make them perfect with us, the New Testament saints -- and we all still await Christ's return for our final blessings so that all believer (even those yet to come to faith) will be perfected together. In the meantime, Old Testament saints are in heaven (e.g. 2 Kgs. 2:11; Heb. 11:5), as are New Testament saints (Christians) who have died, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies (Matt. 22:31-32 [// Mark 12:26-27; Luke 20:37-38]; 1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 4:13-17). While they are in heaven, they are conscious and active (Matt. 17:3 // Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30; compare Rev. 6:9).

Unbelieving Jews and Gentile who lived during the Old Testament era perish for eternity in hell (Matt. 10:15; 11:22,24; John 5:24-29; 2 Pet. 2:4-9).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.