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Describe Old Testament salvation.

by Stephen Davey

Carolyn from Kansas asked: How were people in the Old Testament saved?


One of the common misconceptions about the Old Testament and the plan of salvation is that the Jews were saved by keeping the law and we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ.

Consider Galatians 3:11 where Paul said:

[11] Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11 ESV) 

Paul was actually quoting from Habakkuk 2:4 which says:

[4] “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4 ESV)

So you put that together and realize that salvation is by faith in the plan of God, from the beginning of history. 

The Old Testament saints were following the command of God by offering a blood sacrifices. But they looked forward to the final sacrifice of the coming Messiah. The laws surrounding Passover illustrate this for us. The Hebrew word for atonement means covering, not canceling. Those sins were temporarily covered. In fact, it only lasted a year, because Passover needed to be observed annually. 

But then, speaking of of Jesus, Hebrews 9 says:

He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12 ESV) 

So our redemption is based on the bloodshed of the innocent Lamb. We look back to that moment in history, at the cross, when Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified. The Old Testament believer looked forward to that day, and demonstrated his trust in God's plan by the shedding of animal blood.

The key is to remember that animal sacrifice never resulted in salvation. Old Testament saints were saved just like you were: by faith in the Messiah. 

Thanks for your question,



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