Will the people who have died under the old covenant and those who die today not knowing Jesus go to heaven? If some of these poor ignorant people, having lived godly lives, can still go to heaven, then is faith in Jesus really the only way to salvation?
Again, to know the truth on this the Bible is the only source that will give us the right answers. First of all let us dismiss the rumour that all will be saved.
Rom 10:1-2 “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” NIV Paul had a longing to see all Israelites being saved.
Weren’t they saved? Didn’t they have the oracles of God and the Ten Commandments? Yes, they did. Weren’t they the ones who were offering sacrifices to the Lord? Read God’s reaction towards them: Isa 1:13 “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear your evil assemblies.” NIV
If your heart is not right with God and if you do not have a closer relationship with your Father, all that you do for religious reasons are worthless in God’s eyes. Salvation is not in what you do, but in what you let God do in your life.
If the apostle Paul desired his people to be saved, how could they be saved? What is the way to salvation?
Jesus answered this question when Thomas questioned Him about it:
John 14:6-7 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” NIV
But isn’t there another way to obtain salvation?
Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” NIV
What about works? Wouldn’t that qualify someone for heaven?
Eph 2:8-9 8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” NIV
It is clear from all these texts that salvation comes from God, not us. It is by His grace that we are saved. How? John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” NIV This is real love, divine love. This salvation is only available if you accept Jesus into your heart.
Rom 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” NIV
How can anyone on this planet be saved?
John 3:17-18 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” NIV
Does this mean anyone will be saved? No, only those who accept God’s grace.
John 3:18-19 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” NIV
Why can’t we be saved by our own efforts?
Rom 3:10-12 “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” NIV
What is the consequence of our sins?
Rom 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NIV
If we depend on ourselves for salvation we are heading for trouble. Death is our ultimate destination. However it is still not too late to accept God’s grace and invite Jesus into your heart. Salvation is only obtainable through Jesus Christ. Why don’t you accept Him now by answering His call at http://www.answers2prayer.org/saviours_call.html . He wants you to be His friend. Will you let Him? Rom 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” NIV
Now what about those who lived under the Old covenant? Could they be saved and if yes, how so?
The Book of Hebrews will shed some light on this:
Heb 11:13-16 “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” NIV
Were some people saved in the Old Covenant? Absolutely! Many were saved! How? Through works? No! By faith! Absolutely! Although they did not receive what was promised, they saw it from a distance and believed. What promise are we talking about here? The promise they believed in was given by God to Adam and Eve, minutes after they had sinned: Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” NIV This is the promise of the upcoming Messiah who will crush the serpent, the devil under his feet. Hope was given to our forefathers, a hope that is portrayed throughout the Old Testament. Blood sacrifices, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the living waters in the dessert… all of these were reminder of the soon to come fulfillment of that promise. Those who believed that promise and clung to it, were saved.
Heb 9:26-28 “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” NIV
What about God’s law in the Old Covenant?
Rom 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him.” AMP
Gal 3:24-25 “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” NIV
All the laws were pointing towards Jesus as well. The whole Old Covenant was proclaiming that one day the Messiah would appear and He is the One who would bring us salvation. How much more blessed are we who have been able to witness the death and resurrection of the Messiah. We are able to witness this, although it happened 2000 years ago, because Jesus lives in us! He is alive in us! 1 John 4:13-16 “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” NIV
Now what about those who nowadays have not heard yet about Jesus Christ? Isn’t it our task to share the Good News with them?
The apostle had the same concern and this why he urged the following: Rom 10:14-15 “But how are people to call upon Him Whom they have not believed [in Whom they have no faith, on Whom they have no reliance]? And how are they to believe in Him [adhere to, trust in, and rely upon Him] of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men [be expected to] preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings! [How welcome is the coming of those who preach the good news of His good things!]” [Isa 52:7.] AMP
Jesus even encouraged us to be His messengers in the dying world:
Matt 28:18-20 “Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days ( perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.” AMP
Stand up and touch someone. We are the light bearers in this dark world. Let us proclaim that salvation has come. Inner peace is available to those who trust the Lord. Reconciliation and eternal life had been made available though Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!
P. S. God’s majesty has been proclaimed since the creation of the world. No one has any excuses. God has reached out to them personally, but not everyone listened to His voice! Rom 1:20-26 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.” NIV
The simplest answer is this: Those who have served the one true God, having believed all He has revealed of Himself to date, these are the ones who know Him and will stay in relationship with Him, even after death. In other words, God has revealed Himself step by step thoughout history and the Bible gives us the full revelation of God. This includes Jesus. Those who reject Jesus are rejecting God, Jesus is God in the flesh.
Most people who say: what about this group or that who did not know about Jesus, are trying to displace their own guilt. Do not make this mistake. Trusting Jesus with your life removes your guilt permanently (at least in God’s eyes)!
One MUST know Jesus in order to go to Heaven. It will be different for those who died under the old covenant and simply didn’t know the new one. It surely wasn’t their fault they perished before it came about. But, those who die today not knowing Jesus will NOT go to Heaven. It is instructed to us to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior in order to join Him in His perfect place.
Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, ‘Jesus as Lord,’ and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” John 1:12 Again God said, “To all who received Him [Christ], to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God”
Scripture is numerous attesting to the fact that we MUST know the Lord. We MUST accept Him into our hearts and souls in order to go with Him when the time comes.