I received the following question on my post TEN QUESTIONS ANSWERED: “What happened to all of the souls that lived and died before Jesus? Was just wondering .. are they just s____ out of luck?”
I gave a brief reply: “Good question. Briefly the answer is no. I’ll try to post a fuller answer in a few days. I’m out of pocket right now.”
Well, it’s been over a week, so I think I better sit down and come up with a “a fuller answer.”
Salvation – a right relationship with God – has always been based on the work of Jesus Christ and appropriated by faith, even before He was born and died and rose.
1 John 2:2, “And He (Jesus Christ) is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours alone, but for all the world.” The word “propitiation” means the sacrifice that satisfies the anger of God. If Christ’s sacrifice was enough for the whole world, that would include those born before He made the sacrifice as well as those in the future.
In Romans 4:3, Paul quoted from Genesis 13:6, “What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness (right standing with God).’”
The Old Testament is filled with examples of men and women of faith, even though other expressions may have been used.
“Then they began to call on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 4:26).
“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).
“Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8).
The 11th chapter of Hebrews in the New Testament lists over a dozen persons of faith of the Old Testament, male and female, Jew and Gentile (non-Jew).
Early in his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of what is known as natural revelation:
“… because that which is known about God is evident among them (humankind), for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world, His invisible characteristics have been clearly seen, being understood through the things He made, that is, His eternal power and divine nature” (1:19, 20).
There is, and always has been, a revelation of God in nature, both before and after Christ. However, Paul says that this leaves humankind “without any excuse … because they didn’t glorify Him as God, or give Him thanks” (1:20, 21)
So I’d have to say that, as I understand the Scriptures, the only persons who are “s____ out of luck” are those who haven’t responded in faith to the God who has revealed Himself in nature, in the Scriptures and in His Son.