Brenda asked: “What happened to those who died before Jesus Christ was born?”
People in the Old Testament period who died without faith went to a place of torment. Their spirits are there now, awaiting the final judgment. People of faith who died in the Old Testament period went to a place called Paradise.
Luke 16 is a good place to turn to because in one account, we have a believer and an unbeliever in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus, who is a believer, is said to be in Abraham's bosom, which was a metaphor for paradise. There's a chasm between paradise and a place of torment. The rich man was in that place of torment and suffering.
When Jesus died, Ephesians says this:
Ephesians 4:8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (ESV).
I take that to mean that Jesus went into paradise, and took the Old Testament believers with Him to heaven. They are now in the presence of Jesus. However, unbelievers from the Old Testament period are still in that place of torment, called Hades, where they will remain until the final judgement.
Thanks for your question,