Since Christian’s believe that only those who trust Jesus for salvation will have eternal life how were people saved who lived before Jesus? Since the earth is between 6,000-10,000 years old most of history happened before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This includes quite a few of the great saints in the Bible. Abraham, Moses and David, to name a few, lived before Jesus. Alexander the Great, Guatama Buddha, Confucius, Julius Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and many other greats of history lived before Jesus. Billions of people lived before Jesus’ time. The question of their salvation is an urgent one.
The answer to this question is, in one sense, very simple. The people who lived before Jesus were saved the same way as the people living after Jesus. Everyone who has ever been saved has been saved by trusting Him for salvation. Understanding the the answer is a little more complicated. Those who were saved before Jesus were saved by believing God’s promise to send a Savior and by trusting that promised Savior for salvation. As soon as man sinned, God began to tell humanity about the Savior. He promised Adam and Eve to give one who would crush Satan and defeat the curse of sin. Though the Bible doesn’t record the specific promises given in the time between Adam and Abraham we know that those living during that time knew of God and some believed Him. Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel was declared righteous (he was saved) because of his faith. Enoch and Noah believed God and were saved.
Through the story of Abraham more is recorded of God’s promise to save men. God promised Abraham that through his Seed all the earth would be blessed. That promised Seed is Jesus (Galatians 3:16). Abraham believed God and was made righteous. (Genesis 15:6) The same promise was made to Abraham’s son, grandson and great-grandson. Through Moses God announced the promises of salvation to all of Israel. Through Israel God made the whole world know that He is God. Through Israel God repeatedly showed pictures of salvation. God placed Israel at the crossroads of the ancient world so all the world would know He is God.
God did not just make Himself known through mighty deeds of deliverance and judgment. God spoke to the world through His faithful servants. In the years before Jesus was born God spoke to men of His promise to save. Though we do not have many examples recorded in the Bible, the testimony of men like Abel and Enoch let us know that God spoke to men in the earliest years of human history. Hebrews 11:6 declares that only by faith is anyone made pleasing to God. Romans 10 says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Throughout all human history the truth of God’s promised salvation has been available. Men knew the commands of God and knew the promise of God to give a Savior. In the days of Abraham God gave the first written Scripture. Through Moses and many others the Old Testament came into existence. Though the name Jesus was not known before the angel spoke to Mary salvation has always been through faith in Him. He is the Savior of the world promised to mankind since the day man first sinned. He is the only means of salvation. God spoke of salvation to humanity thousands of years before Jesus and those who believed God’s promises were saved.