Did Old Testament saints have eternal security? If not, what did they have?


Yes, Old Testament believers had eternal security. They were saved the same way believers are today — by grace through faith (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 5:1-8; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5, etc.). These Old Testament saints looked forward to the Messiah whose name they did not know (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 3:16; cf. John 8:56), and believers today look back to Christ, whose name has been made known. Hebrews 11:1-40 gives us a roll call of Old Testament sinners that were saved through Christ the Messiah (Heb. 11:39-40). Their lives were witnesses of God's so great salvation (Heb. 2:3; 12:1).

The gift of God is eternal life, not temporary life (Rom. 6:23), so it is without end, ongoing, and forever (cf. Rom. 8:31-39). As chapter III.3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith III.3 states, "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death." (Please see, "Perseverance of the Saints" below.)

Some have questions about such texts as Psalm 51:11 which says, "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." However, David wasn't speaking of the eternal security he already had in the Lord; he still expected to see his son who died as a result of his sin against the Lord (2 Sam. 12:19) in the new heaven and the new earth (2 Sam. 12:23). We’re told David's sin was taken away (2 Sam. 12:13), so he knew his salvation was secure (2 Tim 2:13; John 6:35-40; 10:25-29; Rom 8:28-39; 1 Cor 1:4-9; 2 Co 4:13-14; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; Phil 1:6; 3:20-21; Col 3:3-4; 1 Thess 5:23-24; 1 Pet 1:3-5; 1 John 2:19; 5:4; Jude 1:1, 24-25).

What David was referring to in Psalm 51:11 was the fact that he did not desire to be alienated God. He had had a front row seat to the fall of King Saul. When Saul grievously sinned (1 Sam. 13:9), God removed his blessing from him and his kingdom was removed from him (1 Sam. 16:13-14; 18:12; Dan. 2:21). Here, David knew he had sinned grievously and he did not desire the same judgment as Saul.

As the psalmist says, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death" (Psa. 68:19-20). Eternal security is for every true believer.

Related Toptics

Perseverance of the Saints
Lessons on Repentance - Psalm 51

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).