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Special Studies - Salvation Before The Cross


Old Testament Believer

How Were People Saved Before the Cross
If we as believers are saved as a result of Jesus Christ's death on the cross and resurrection, just how were people in the Old Testament saved? Notes are from the Sunday session in Hot Springs over Labor Day, 2003.


            Why is the subject of salvation prior to the Cross even important to us?  In a pluralistic society and world where moral relativism is promoted and enforced by religions that either pre-date Jesus or that claim some common ancestry with Christianity (e.g. Judaism and Islam), it is important for the Christian believer to understand and be able to articulate a response that establishes the consistency of the salvation plan throughout the entirety of human history.


Ø      To demonstrate the consistency of God’s plan of redemption of man throughout human history

Ø      To formulate a response to a pluralistic and relative mindset in regard to absolute Biblical truths regarding God’s plan of redemption [Moral relativism is promoted and enforced by religions that either pre-date Jesus or that claim some common ancestry with Christianity (e.g. Judaism and Islam)].

Ø      To enhance the Christian believer’s ability to articulate a response when challenged by the skeptical believer or unbeliever

Ø      To strengthen our faith in God’s providential work as Scripture reveals thread after thread of evidence of His omniscience, veracity, and sovereignty in the tapestry of human history when seen through the eyes of faith


Illustrations:  Story of witnessing to fellow employees and bumper sticker (“Born OK the first time”)



The fact that the Old Testament and even the Synoptic Gospel accounts do not contain a clear set of instructions regarding how to be saved has been the basis for soteriological confusion and error.   In the Old Testament, we find no clear statement regarding the means of salvation such as we do in the following Pauline passages: 

Ephesians 2:8-9 – 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  

Romans 6:23 – 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Titus 3:5 – 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. 

Question:  How did people come to faith prior to the Cross?  Were they saved by offering animal sacrifices?  Were they saved by just being good people (i.e. works)?

Question:  Did people simply look forward to the Cross as we look back to the Cross?

Question:  If so, when did OT people first become aware of the Cross?

Question:  What is your support for your view of how people were saved?  Passages? 

Proposed SolutionOral Tradition 

            I would like to propose the following solution or answer to these questions.  From the period of time between the Fall of man until Moses wrote the Pentateuch, God gave verbal revelation that eternal salvation came through faith alone in the coming Deliverer (Christ) alone.  Oral tradition continued in parallel with the written word even after the writing of the Pentateuch. 

            Before we develop the Biblical support for this position, let’s first take a panoramic look at a sample of some of the more interesting events in pre-Biblical and post-Biblical history that relate to this issue.   

            Oral tradition was easily manipulated and distorted through Satanic deception.  Examples include:

Ø      Epic of Gilgamesh – an ancient Flood epic originally authored by the ancient Sumerians, a people whose capital stood on the site of Ur.  Hittites and Egyptians translated it into their own tongues, and cuneiform tablets discovered by the Nile still clearly show the marks in red ink opposite those parts which the Egyptian scribes found difficult to translate.  It’s written form possibly dates back to Hammurabi, the 6th king of the 1st Babylonian dynasty which lasted from ca. 1830 – 1530 B.C.[1]

Ø      Ennuma Elish – the Babylonian story of creation which featured the god Merodach also referred to as Bel on occasion although there was a difference.  The patron god of Babylon was Bel (Jer 51:44) and Marduk (Merodach) was the head of the Babylonian pantheon.  Bel was referred to as Marduk though for the most part.  As a sun-god, his festival was celebrated in the spring at the beginning of the year, since the sun’s rays were then most potent in reviving nature.  The Babylonians exalted him to the head of their pantheon shortly after 2000 B.C.  The Enuma Elish indicates that Marduk was elevated to this position because of his slaying of Tiamat, the goddess of chaos.

Ø      Worship of the moon god (Nannar) and moon goddess (Nin-Gal) prevalent in ancient Mesopotamia[2]


Interesting Events and Facts in Pre-Biblical and Post-Biblical History

             Angelic Conflict – the explanation for the purpose of human history.  God’s purpose for the creation of man is vitally related to events that had occurred in eternity past as referenced in such passages as Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12b-19.   These events led to the creation of an inferior creature (man) so that the inferior creature might provide evidence in Lucifer’s appeal trial to his sentence of eternal separation from God.  I have found various components of the doctrine of the angelic conflict in the writings of several men.  I have arrived at my position on the subject as a result of filtering the views of the following men: 

Ø      Renald E. Showers, What On Earth Is God Doing?  Satan’s Conflict With God (Neptune, New Jersey:  Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1973);

Ø      Donald Grey Barnhouse, The Invisible War (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1965);

Ø      Lewis S. Chafer, Satan, His Motives and Methods (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Kregel Publications, 1990);

Ø      Stanley A. Ellisen, Biography of a Great Planet (Wheaton, Illinois:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1975);

Ø      Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas, Texas:  Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), Volume II, 78-81, 85, 100-101, 103-104, 108, 110, 120-121. 

After the Fall of man in the Garden, Lucifer gained dominion over this earth from man for the primary purpose of destroying the evidence (i.e. human history) that God intended to use to rebut Lucifer’s objection to God’s sentence of the Lake of Fire and eternal separation from Him. 

The final execution of the sentence that was pronounced at the time of Lucifer’s fall in eternity past is to occur after God has accomplished His purpose in human history, i.e. provide evidence through a lower creature that God’s essence attributes function in a unified and harmonious manner.  Lucifer’s challenge (and the challenge of millions of other creatures) that God is not a God of love and is unfair is totally without basis.  In eternity future when there is only positive volition in God’s kingdom, human history will serve as evidence to God’s redeemed creatures that God is fair. 

The first 1500 to 2000 years of human history - By the point in human history that Abram arrived on the scene in Genesis 12 (ca. 2200 B.C.), Satan had executed his desire to destroy the evidence (i.e. human history) and challenge God’s authority with some degree of success.  We do not have a blow-by-blow description of the events of those early years of human history nor do we know exactly how many years had passed; however, we can surmise the trend by examining some of the known facts from Scripture and extra-Biblical sources.  Satan was very active in the exercise of his dominion over the earth and its inhabitants.  For example:

Ø      Genesis 3 – The Fall of Man and the Promise (3:15) – Satan wrests dominion of the earth from man by enticing man to disobey God.   The bait that Satan uses is an appeal to become like God (Ge 3:1-5).  God demonstrates His love for the inferior creature man by giving a prophecy of Satan’s doom and of the Redeemer to be born (Gen 3:14-15 cf. Isa 53:4-6, 10-12; Jn 1:29).

Ø     Genesis 4 – Corruption and increasing evil

o       1st Murder – Cain murders Abel – a Satanically inspired effort to prevent the Redeemer from coming (Ge 4:1-8 cf. Jn 8:44; 1 Jn 3:10-12)

o       Proliferation of evil – Lamech’s flagrant disregard of God’s pattern of one man and one woman (Ge 4:19 cf. 2:24; Matt 19:4-6) plus his arrogant boasting in regard to the murder of a man (Ge 4:23) reflected a evil pattern of behavior that was becoming more prevalent in society

Ø     Genesis 6 – The earth becomes filled with violence and corruption (Ge 6:11, 13) and man’s thinking was only evil continually (Ge 6:5).  The human race had even become contaminated through copulation between fallen angelic beings and the “daughters of men” (Ge 6:1-2; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).  This was followed by the judgment of the Flood recorded in Genesis 6-9.

Ø      Genesis 10 & 11Deification of Man – In contrast to God’s command to “fill the earth,” Satan inspired man to remain congregated in one area in an obvious attempt to spread apostasy faster.  Satan provided a symbol of unity for the human race and a common project which would unite their efforts at “making a name for themselves” (i.e. the Tower of Babel).  The Satanic inspiration for this effort is obvious – they desired to not be scattered (Ge 11:4).  This was Satan’s first effort at a one-world religion and as is characteristic of all false religions, man is deified (Ge 3:5, 22 cf. 11:4).  The leader of this effort was apparently Nimrod whose name is related to the Hebrew word for “rebel.”  He was a tyrannical ruler, a mighty hunter, and the founder of several powerful cities that eventually became centers of power for Israel’s enemies.  These cities were concentrated in the area of Mesopotamia or the plain of Shinar, where the attempt at unification and one-world religion was concentrated (Ge 10:8-12 cf. 11:2, 5-8). [3]  God countered Satan’s efforts to increase apostasy through a one-world religious system opposed to God.  God simply confused their ability to communicate by introducing multiple languages. 

Ø      More Specificity Regarding the Redeemer – The repetitive cycle of degeneracy in the human race after each judgment of God (e.g. the curse at the Fall of man, the Flood, the Tower of Babel) exhibited the effectiveness of Satan at blinding the inferior creature, man, to the truth.  God needed to establish a new race and nation of people who would be His Own and who would preserve His revelation to man.  God found a man who would heed His call.  That man was Abram who lived in the land of Ur of the Chaldeans (Ge 11:31).  The Redeemer, first promised in Genesis 3:15, would come through Abram’s line of descent (Matt 1:1; Lu 3:23-24)

Ø      By the time Abram arrived on the scene of human history, wickedness had spread over the earth.  Satan had distorted the oral tradition of Truth that was being preserved by a few into false religions that were counterfeits to the Truth.  Even Abram’s father was an idolator (Josh 24:2).  Rather than destroying the wicked as before (i.e. the Flood), God chose Abram out of a land of idolatry through whom He would establish a theocracy and accomplish His redemptive purpose.  (God’s omniscience foresaw the positive volition which would manifest itself in Abram’s life as God progressively and iteratively revealed His sovereign will and purpose.  God’s omniscient foreknowledge of Abram’s positive decisions became the basis of God’s choice in time). 

Ø      God needed to separate Abram from his family and environment.  God gave Abram a threefold command to accomplish this separation:  1) leave his country; 2) leave his father’s house; and 3) leave his relatives (Ge 12:1). 


Biblical Support – Salvation Prior to Written Scripture 

            We can develop an argument from Scripture that supports the position that man was saved by faith alone in Christ alone prior to the written Word when we examine what Moses had to say about early human history.   

OT Passages Which Evidence an Oral Tradition During the Pre-Canon Era of Human History: 

Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”  

Ø      This verse on its own doesn’t contain enough information for Adam and Eve to be saved.

Ø      It says nothing about believing in Christ and nothing about their eternal destiny.

Ø      Yahweh must have given Adam and Eve more verbal information about the Coming “Seed” and the plan of eternal salvation.

Ø      Support for this position – God rejected man’s efforts at covering sin (Ge 3:7) and provided a covering through the skin of an animal – the first death in Scripture (Ge 3:21). 

Genesis 4:4 – “And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat portions.” 

Ø      How did Abel know to sacrifice the firstlings of his flock? 

Ø      What does this passage indicate about the means of salvation? 

Genesis 7:2 – “You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female.”  

Genesis 8:20-21a – “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma” 

Ø      How did Noah know which animals were clean and unclean?

Ø      How did Noah know the manner in which to present the sacrifices to the Lord – “burnt offerings?” 

Genesis 14:18 – 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem [sje4] brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tenth of all. 

Ø      How was Melchizedek a priest even before the Law had been given?

Ø      How did Abram know to offer tithes (a tenth) to support the priest?

Ø      Melchizedek becomes a type of Jesus Christ (Heb 7:1, 2, 4)

Genesis 49:8-10 – “8 Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. 9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? 10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes,

And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”   

Ø      Jacob spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he prophesied and blessed his sons while on his deathbed. 

Ø      There is further specificity in this passage of the lineage of the Promised Redeemer – the tribe of Judah

Ø      Judah, representative of the coming Messiah, is portrayed in a conquering role – “Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies” and “to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”

Ø      The scepter is another symbol of royalty

Ø      Many ancient sources including the Targum (the Aramaic translation of the Old Testament) interpret “Shiloh as a title for the Messiah

Ø      Interpretive Issue:  Did Judah’s lordship come to an end with the Babylonian captivity so that the scepter did depart from Judah?

Ø      Answer:  The reference to the scepter did not necessarily refer to the rule of Judah, but probably referred to its existence as a tribe.  The genealogy of Jesus given by Matthew is first class evidence that the royal stock was preserved. 

Job 19:25-26 – 25 “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26  Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God.”   

Ø      How did Job, a contemporary of Jacob or perhaps even Abraham, understand these truths regarding the Second Advent of the Messiah and of the resurrection? 

Ø      While we must be careful not to carry this point too far, Job provides us with a basis to conclude that there is possibly much that was understood by the early Patriarchs and passed down through the generations by oral tradition that is not recorded in Scripture, yet served as an undercurrent for that which was recorded in Scripture, e.g. an understanding of the angelic conflict.  (See Job 1:6-12; 2:1-10) 

Two NT Passages Which Evidence an Oral Tradition During the Pre-Canon Era of Human History: 

Jude 14-15a – 14 And about these [false teachers] also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all…” 

Ø      If Enoch prophesied these advanced truths about the Second Coming of the Lord, it is reasonable to believe that He also revealed basic truths about the means of salvation through faith in Him and His work. 

Hebrews 2:2-3 – 2  For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” 

Ø      Here, we have an allusion to angels being used as divine messengers.   

Biblical Support – Salvation Message in the Old Testament 

            In the Old Testament, we find pieces of information about a coming Redeemer as we’ve seen above.  Early history recorded in the Bible gives us some evidence that there was a faith in Yahweh for salvation or deliverance even though the message was never clearly articulated in Scripture.  It is certainly implied.  That message of salvation or deliverance eventually began to be associated with Jewish aspirations for national deliverance the more that the nation Israel and the Jewish people suffered (usually discipline) and were offered encouragement by the prophets.  Consider the following passages. 

Numbers 24:17-19 –  “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, And a scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.  18 “And Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also shall be a possession, while Israel performs valiantly. 19 “One from Jacob shall have dominion, And shall destroy the remnant from the city.” 20 And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.” 

Ø      This passage provides evidence of an understanding of Messianic expectations corresponding to Israel’s entry into the Promised Land (ca. 1406 B.C.)

Ø      Again, although there is evidence of Messianic hope and a strong connection to the prophetic passages of Genesis 3:15 (the seed of the woman) and Genesis 49:8-10 (Jacob’s prophetic blessing of Judah), there is no explanation of the mechanics of salvation

Ø      As Israel journeyed toward the land of promise, they were refused passage through the land of the Edom and Amorite territory. 

Ø      Israel defeated Sihon, King of the Amorites in battle. 

Ø      Israel defeated Og, the king of Bashan whose territory was further north, but east of the Sea of Galilee. 

Ø      Israel now controlled virtually all the land to the east of the Jordan river that lay between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. 

Ø      This conquest was quite disturbing to one of the other kings of the Trans-jordan, Balak, king of Moab. 

Ø      Balak was so disturbed that he solicited the services of Balaam, a seer/diviner from Mesopotamia. 

Ø      From the vantage point of a mountain peak, Balaam repeatedly tried to pronounce his curses.

Ø      Balaam was from Pethor, a city on the Euphrates river and was possibly not very far from Mari, a city that was discovered in 1933 in the Euphrates valley.

Ø      In the 1933 discovery, a large number of cuneiform tablets were unearthed and revealed the existence of a complex cult of prophets and seers whose activities were very similar to Balaam.[4]

Ø      In 1967, a discovery was made in Jordan of an eighth century B.C. inscription of prophecies of Balaam.  This discovery of an eighth century B.C. inscription of this pagan prophet is testimony to his renown even centuries after his death.

Ø      Balaam specialized in animal divination whereby the entrails of animals were inspected to determine the will of the gods.

Ø      Such prophets even studied the movements of animals and birds in order to determine if they might constitute a sign from the gods or even influence the gods.

Ø      If Balaam could influence the “god” of Israel, then he might reverse Israel’s blessing into a curse and destroy them.

Ø      Balaam became an unwilling agent that God used to produce some of the most wonderful prophecies of the glorious future of Israel.

Ø      During his trip by donkey to Moab, Balaam encountered the Angel of the Lord and even witnessed his donkey speak.

Ø      Eventually, the Angel allowed Balaam to pass, but only after warning him that he was to speak only the word that Yahweh would tell him (22:35).

Ø      Balaam’s prophecy primarily revolved around a “star” and a “scepter” that would originate in Israel in the future.  In the poetic structure of the passage, the star and scepter are in parallel construction, thus both refer to royalty.   

Ø      The connection to God’s pronouncement of blessing upon Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 12 to include a blessing upon those who bless you and a cursing upon those who curse you (Ge 12:2-3 cf. Num 24:9) is unmistakable.

Ø      The connection of this prophecy to that of Jacob in Genesis 49:10 that a ruler over Israel would come from Judah is unmistakable. 

Ø      Israel’s status among the nations is unique (23:7-10) and it has ultimate fulfillment in the “latter days” (24:14) of her history when she is delivered by her Ruler and Deliverer (24:15-19).

Ø      The pagan Balaam had a vision of the coming of the Hebrew Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  His vision was of Christ conquering His enemies to establish the Messianic kingdom.  All the nations that had resisted God’s work through Israel would come under the curse they unwittingly embraced.  

Deuteronomy 18:15 – The Lord Your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.”

Ø      This passage doesn’t explain the mechanics of salvation either although in a general way it carried Messianic hope.  (See Peter’s application to Jesus in Acts 3:22-26)

Psalm 2:7-9 - 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee. 8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. 9 ‘Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.’”

Ø      This Psalm is a Royal Psalm in which David exhorts the pagan nations to abandon their rebellious plans against the Lord and to submit to the authority of the Son whom God had ordained to rule the nations

Ø      Psalm 2 has been described as a “war chant as forces are mustered together for the impending battle of Armageddon.”[5]

Ø      Throughout the remainder of Israel’s history, “each descendant of David would be adopted by God according to the words of the covenant: ‘I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.’”[6] 

Ø      “We may presume that these words were used by the priests as each new king was crowned as the successor of David.  As an adoptive ‘son’ of God, the king was God’s regent on earth, marked out to mediate the divine will among his subjects.’”[7]

Ø      Each successor king to David would be ushered into office with the words of Psalm 2:7 included in his anointing – “you are my son, today I have begotten you.”

Ø      This would serve as a reminder to each king of his divinely appointed responsibility.

Ø      A thousand years after David’s promise, a line that was never lacking in a male descendant, David’s greatest son arrives on the scene.

Ø      This descendant does not marry and has no descendant, but He succeeds Himself.

Ø      It contains the ideal that was set before each of these kings – live as the Son of God and His regent upon this earth. 

Ø      Even more importantly, it contains the specific prophecy of the coming rule of the King Jesus.[8]

Ø      However, it does not provide us with the mechanics of salvation.

Psalm 22:1 – “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?  Far from My deliverance are the words of my groaning.”

Psalm 22:6-8 - 6 But I am a worm, and not a man, A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,  8 “Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.” 

Psalm 22:14-18 - 14 I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint;

My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones.

They look, they stare at me; 18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots. 

Ø      In this Psalm, David is inspired by the Holy Spirit to record the distress of his physical suffering and the Lord’s deliverance with words that describe the suffering that Jesus (David’s ultimate descendant) experienced upon the Cross. 

Ø      The Psalm is clearly Messianic since the writer to the Hebrews quoted Psalm 22:22 in Hebrews 2:12 as the words of Jesus.[9] 

Ø      The omniscient Holy Spirit Who inspired David to use these words knew that they would be the very words that Jesus would utter as He cried out to God on the Cross as recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34

Ø      Is Psalm 22 indeed prophetic?  If so, did David realize the prophetic nature of what he wrote?  Is what David wrote limited to or extended beyond his own experience? 

Ø      Some have claimed that the early church merely saw the connection and incorporated Psalm 22 into the passion story.[10]

Ø      It is unlikely that Psalm 22 refers to some otherwise unrecorded incident in David’s life based upon David’s stature in the Old Testament and the grave nature of the experience he described.[11]

Ø      David clearly transcends his own experiences in the last section of the psalm (verses 22-31) by stating that all the earth would praise God for what He had done.[12]

Ø      1 Peter 1:10-12 seems to indicate that the prophets who predicted the sufferings of Christ were aware that they were doing so. [13]

Ø      Both Peter and Jesus quote Psalm 110:1 in a manner that clearly indicates that David knew he was prophesying (see Acts 2:34-35; Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43).[14]

Ø      David as a prophet per Acts 2:30 is one of the first in a series of prophets to prophesy in detail about the future theocratic kingdom ruled by his Messianic descendant. 

Ø      Later prophets would expound in greater detail regarding this Messianic kingdom mostly as an encouragement to those who would survive the judgment that they foretold.

Ø      After the departure of the Shekinah Glory from the temple described by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 8:4; 9:3; 10:4; 10:18; 11:22, 23) and the beginning of the time of Gentile domination over Israel, a major theme of the prophets message was the future theocratic kingdom.

Ø      Even though this passage is VERY Messianic, it does not provide the mechanics of salvation. 

Psalm 110:1-7 – 1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”  2 The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”  3 Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; in holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew.  4 The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”  5 The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.  6 He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.  7 He will drink from the brook by the wayside.  Therefore He will lift up His head. 

Ø      David, writing in approximately 1000 B.C., is privileged to be given access through the Holy Spirit to divine communication in eternity past regarding an event that was yet future to David.

Ø      Although this Psalm pictures the victorious Messiah at what we now to be His 2nd Advent, there is no clear explanation of the mechanics of salvation 

Isaiah 53:11 – “My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” 

Ø      Again, this is certainly prophetic of the Messiah, but it doesn’t tell people what they had to do to be justified. 

Micah 4:1-5 – Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it.  Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”  For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.  But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.  For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever. 

Ø      Certainly, this is a passage of hope for the nation, Israel, the Jewish race and even Gentiles; however, it doesn’t address how the reader was to be saved while he/she waited upon that day to come. 

Jeremiah 31:34 – “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” 

Ø      While Jeremiah speaks of knowing the Lord and forgiveness of sins, he doesn’t mention how to experience these things. 

Ezekiel 36:26-28 – Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 “And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. 

Ø      Ezekiel speaks of a spiritual birth, but he doesn’t mention how to experience this new birth. 

Daniel 7:13-14 – I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. 

Daniel 7:27 – Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him. 

Ø      VERY Messianic passages, but again, no clear explanation of the mechanics of salvation 

Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.  Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.   

Zechariah 14:9 – And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.  In that day it shall be – “the Lord is one,” and His name is one. 

Zechariah 14:20 – In that day “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” shall be engraved on the bells of the horses.  The pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar.  Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lord of hosts.  In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite [merchandisers] in the house of the Lord of hosts. 

Ø      Again, very Messianic passages, but no explanation of the mechanics of salvation

Ø      Note:  Jewish commentators often explain is passage as a reference to Jews killed in the defense of Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege.  The Talmud interprets this phrase as a reference to the Messiah who will be pierced in battle.[15]   

Malachi 4:5-6a – Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. 

Ø      Very Messianic, but no explanation of the mechanics of salvation

Ø      Last book of the Old Testament

 The New Testament Clarifies the Picture of Salvation in Pre-Canon & OT History 

            While there may be no specific Old Testament passage that clearly details the salvation gospel in the pre-Canon period of human history, the New Testament indicates that an oral tradition existed.  God expected the Rabbis and other religious leaders in Israel to lead His flock to the truth and not spiritual destruction through their distorted tradition and commentaries. 

John 3:5-7 – Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. 

John 3:9 – Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?”  [Nicodemus didn’t know, but God expected him to know.  How?  The Old Testament and oral tradition.] 

John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.   

Acts 8:32, 35 – 32 The place in the Scripture which he [the Ethiopian eunuch] read was this:  “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”  35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture preached Jesus to him.           

            The New Testament indicates that prophets witness to the fact that salvation was through the name of Christ, the Messiah.  Peter refers to the prophets who wrote about Christ. 

Acts 10:43 – To Him, all the prophets witness that, though His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. 

            Evidently, much of what the prophets proclaimed was not recorded in Scripture.  For example, while Enoch is mentioned in Genesis, we would not know that he prophesied of Christ unless Jude had told us.  And we would not know that Moses “considered the reproach of Christ” unless the writer of Hebrews told us.  We would also not know that Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day unless John told us. 

Hebrews 11:24-26 – By faith Moses, when he became of age refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he looked to the reward.  [Not only did Moses believe in Christ, but living 1400 to 1500 years before Jesus, he understood God’s truth concerning discipleship and rewards.] 

John 5:46 – For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.  [May be a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15

John 8:56 – Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it and was glad. 

            Paul affirms that salvation was by grace through faith in the coming Redeemer and uses Abraham as an example. 

Romans 4:3, 5 – Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness…But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. 

            The New Testament indicates that this plan of salvation existed even prior to the creation of man.  Christ’s death was as good as an established fact even prior to the world was created. 

Revelation 13:8 – “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” 

Isaiah 53:6 – “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  [Isaiah writes in the past tense some 800 years before Jesus died.]




            God’s plan of salvation has always been the same from eternity past to eternity future.  It has never been on the basis of animal sacrifices (Heb 10:4) or by works or keeping the Law (Isa 64:6; Rom 3:20). 

Hebrews 10:4 – For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.   

Isaiah 64:6a – But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags   

Romans 3:20a – Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight. 

            Did we accomplish our purpose in this study? 

Ø      To demonstrate the consistency of God’s plan of redemption of man throughout human history

Ø      To formulate a response to a pluralistic and relative mindset in regard to absolute Biblical truths regarding God’s plan of redemption [Moral relativism is promoted and enforced by religions that either pre-date Jesus or that claim some common ancestry with Christianity (e.g. Judaism and Islam)].

Ø      To enhance the Christian believer’s ability to articulate a response when challenged by the skeptical believer or unbeliever

Ø      To strengthen our faith in God’s providential work as Scripture reveals thread after thread of evidence of His omniscience, veracity, and sovereignty in the tapestry of human history when seen through the eyes of faith



[1]  Warner Keller, The Bible as History (New York:  William Morrow and Company, 1956), 8, 22, and 33.


[2]  Ibid., 18

[3]  It is possible that the Sumerians, who lived in the Mesopotamian region between 5000 and 4000 B.C. and who were the predecessors of the Old Babylonians consisting of the Elamites and Amorites, were the almost direct descendants of the peoples who were involved in the Tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11:1-9.  The Mesopotamian civilization may owe its character to the Sumerians.  The Sumerians lived in a loose confederation of city-states and they developed a code of law that was essentially the 1st version of the Code of Hammurabi.  They believed in a number of gods and goddesses, each capable of both good and evil.  Their religion included a creation epic featuring the god Marduk as well as a flood epic.  [See Edward McNall Burns, Western Civilizations – Their History and Their Culture (New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1973), 50-55].   The Sumerians are one illustration of how quickly ancient civilizations after the Flood and the Tower of Babel degenerated into polytheism and spiritual depravity characterized by Paul in Romans 1:19-23.  There was no written Canon of Scripture at this point – only oral tradition.  Oral tradition was easily distorted by Satan into false histories and misrepresentations of God’s revealed will to man which had been communicated to man directly  (e.g. Ge 3:15) and through angelic communication (e.g. Heb 2:2).  The polytheistic religion of the Sumerians with its counterfeit creation and flood epics is one example of Satan’s distortion of oral tradition.  God needed to set aside a race of people who would be the repository and preservers of His revelation to man and who would serve an evangelistic purpose to other nations and peoples.


[4]  Merrill, “Numbers” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 241.  See also Werner Keller, The Bible as History (New York:  William Morrow and Company, 1964), 45.

[5]  Ron Allen, Rediscovering Prophecy, A New Song for a New Kingdom (Multnomah Press:  Portland, Oregon, 1983), 156. 

[6]  Ibid., 157. 

[7]  Ibid. 

[8]  Ibid., 168.  

[9] Mark H. Heinemann, “An Exposition of Psalm 22.”  Bibliotheca Sacra 147:587 (July, 1990),  286. 

[10] Ibid., 300. 

[11] Heinemann, An Exposition of Psalm 22, 300. 

[12] Ibid., 301. 

[13] Ibid., 302. 

[14] Ibid. 

[15] Talmud – the collection of ancient Rabbinic writings consisting of the Mishnah and the Gemara.  Mishnah – early oral interpretations compiled about 200 A.D.  Gemara – commentary on the Mishnah.


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