How did the people who died before Jesus was born hear about the Gospel?
First of all, many prophecies of the Bible proclaimed and announced the Messiah. Here are some samples:
What does the prophet Isaiah tell us about Christ’s birth?
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Where was the Messiah to be born?
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem”
What would happen after the Messiah’s birth?
“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”
Who would prepare the Messiah’s way?
“A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”
“Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.'”
How was Christ going to preach?
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
How was the Messiah going to be received by His own people?
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
How, according prophecy was the Messiah going to conduct Himself when on trial?
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
“Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge-to the great amazement of the governor.”
What was going to happen with Christ’s clothing at the crucifixion?
“They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
“When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
What was going to be offered to Christ at His crucifixion?
“They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”
“There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.”
With whom did prophecy say Christ would make his grave?
“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth”
“Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.”
What prophecy foretold Christ triumph over death?
“because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
In fact, as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them the hope of the upcoming Messiah:
“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.”
There are many other prophecies announcing the good news of our loving Messiah, but we are restricted in our newsletter.
In addition, the sacrificial system that the Israelites were performing on a daily basis was a foreshadow of what our Saviour would do for us.
“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
Could non-Jews understand this? I believe so, as wise men from a distant land were among the first to recognize the birth of the Messiah.
“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ was prophesied many times in the Old Testament by prophets. So this is my guess on how the people that died before Jesus’ time knew about the Gospel.
Today we look back to the cross and praise God for what He did to save us.
The people of long ago looked ahead to the cross and praised God for what He was planning to do.
All through History God has given us ways to learn of Him and His plans. For Adam and Eve God used the first book called, Nature. Later after the fall and when the Children of Israel had been in Egypt for so long they had lost sight of God and so He gave them a second book, The Sanctuary.
From the Sanctuary we can learn everything about the Gospel plan and how He planed on saving us. But then the Children of Israel lost sight of the symbology and became steeped in tradition and so God gave us the third book, The Bible.
Also among these books God gave them prophets to share with them the good news of His soon coming. You can read of people like Enoch, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest who say and who preached of His soon coming.
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Possibly because Peter tells us that Jesus went ‘down’ and preached to those held in prison. Those that were in Abraham’s bosom were a great gulf separated them and those in hell.
Did they not have the prophets of old tell them and the laws of Moses to save them?
Blessings in Christ Jesus
After Jesus was resurrected He appeared to two men who were walking along the road to Emmaus. They were discussing all that had taken place in Jerusalem concerning the crucifixion. Jesus joined them and questioned them on what they were wondering about. He then revealed who He was by expounding all that had been said about Him from the Old Testament, which was the only scripture they had at that time.
Luke 24:27-AV And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Jesus was able to prove to these two the Gospel message from the Old Testament. In fact the whole focus of the Old Testament was on Jesus.
The ceremonial laws of the Jews pointed toward the coming of Christ. The innocent life that was sacrificed for their sin was figurative of Jesus and the sacrifice He would one day make.
Luke 24:44-AV And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me.
2 Peter 3:2-AV That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
These verses prove that the Old Testament contained witness of Jesus.
Further testimony is found in the following:
Heb 4:2 Gospel preached in Old Testament times.
Num 24:17 ‘Star of Jacob’
Deut 18:15 ‘Great Prophet’
Joshua 5:13-15 ‘Captain of the Lord’s Host’
Isa 9:6 ‘Wonderful Counsellor’
Lev 25 and Ruth 3 ‘the Kinsman’
2Sam 7 ‘Seed of David’ on His throne
Ps 110 ‘High Priest’
Isa 53 ‘Suffering Servant’
Jer 23:6 ‘Lord our Righteousness’
Eze 21:25 ‘Coming King’
Dan. 7:13 ‘Son of Man’
Zech 6:12 ‘The Branch’
Mal 3:1 ‘Messenger of God’s covenant’
People in OT times have exactly the same deal as we have. It has never been possible for mankind to be perfect and obey God’s law completely.
We all have need of a saviour. In OT times they looked forward to the sacrifice of Jesus and we look back on it, but it is still the sacrifice of Jesus that saves us, not anything we can do.
John 5:39-AV Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
These words were spoken by Jesus before the New Testament was written and the scriptures He referred to were what we know as the Old Testament. People who lived and died before Jesus was born had access to the Gospel message in the scriptures.