The Difference Is In The Dispensations
How to make sense of the differences in the Bible
Salvation In The Old Testament
From our brief overview of the major divisions of the Bible, it should
be clear to the reader that God does not always work exactly the same way
in every dispensation. What God required of Adam (don't eat of the tree),
He did not require of Moses; what He required of Noah (ark), He did not
require of David. Likewise what He required of Moses and David (keep the
Law), He does not require of us today. God is the same God, but He simply
does not work with man the same way in every dispensation. Therefore,
every Christian MUST know where the divisions between the dispensations
are and what God requires of man in each of them to make reasonable sense
of the Bible. Again, this is imperative to see God's overall program for
man as He has revealed it.
In this chapter and the following, we are going to look at the covenants
and dispensations from the standpoint of personal, individual salvation.
This is a touchy topic, but our only concern is what the Bible says about
the matter. Now, we realize every Bible preacher, teacher, minister, "scholar,"
etc. who attempts to teach something from the Bible says he is only interested
in what the Bible says; therefore, the reader must determine the truth
himself through prayer and study. Don't blindly follow the opinions
of men no matter how "godly," "devoted," and "fundamental" they may appear;
follow only the BOOK (AV 1611). When anyone (including your author)
does not strictly go by the Bible, abandon him, at least in the area of
error. The Bible is the Christian's absolute, final authority for ALL matters
and is subject to no individual, group, church, or school.
Before we go any farther, let us clear the air and list three "historic,
fundamental positions" we take issue with concerning salvation:
1. That the means of receiving salvation is exactly the same
in every dispensation.
2. That every person ever saved was "born again" and
a "son of God."
3. That no saved person in any age can in any way lose his salvation.
These three positions are considered "undeniable" among many today,
but again, "what saith the Scriptures"?
First of all, before you jump to conclusions, let us state as clearly
as we can that we fully believe every person saved in this present Church
Age is saved by grace through faith apart from any works. We insist
he is born again, a son of God, and has eternal, everlasting life abiding
in him which he cannot lose. We further believe in all the baptistic
"fundamentals of the faith," and more than that we believe the book these
fundamentals were extracted from—the Authorized King James Version of
1611. Our only real difference with some of the brethren is we don't
believe all these Baptist fundamentals apply to everyone in every dispensation.
We contend the new birth, eternal security, the Body of Christ, permanently
indwelling Holy Spirit, and all other doctrines unique to the Church Age
were not available until after the crucifixion, were not revealed
until the New Testament was well under way, and were not clearly defined
until the epistles of Paul. We further contend these Church Age doctrines
have no application to any Old Testament saint, no matter how notable (Abraham,
Moses, David, etc..), or to someone in the Tribulation.
Nowhere in the Old Testament can one find the Holy Spirit regenerating
anyone, sealing anyone unto the "day of redemption," placing someone
"in Christ," or applying a half dozen other New Testament doctrines,
but that doesn't stop people from teaching these doctrines are there. They
do it by taking present Baptist (or any other) Church Age doctrines and
forcing them to apply to all ages. This is nearly as bad as those who try
to force doctrines unique to the Law (the Sabbath, abstaining from certain
meats, etc.) on believers today. The only difference is the Baptist doctrines
cannot be practiced in the past because they were unknown then, but past
doctrines can be practiced now. In future dispensations, though, those
who try to force presently sound Baptist doctrine to apply there will be
heretics just like the Sabbath-keepers and pork-abstainers are today. As
someone has said, "Nearly every bad thing is a good thing twisted," thus
even the precious new birth can be detrimental if it is taught as doctrine
in the wrong age.
When one reads modern, "fundamental" literature he needs to be careful.
Much of what he reads will likely be sound doctrine, but some may also
be based solely on assumption, emotion, opinion, or ignorance. For example,
the author has read and heard several respected ministers make statements
like: "People in the Old Testament were saved by looking forward to the
cross while people in the New Testament are saved by looking back to the
cross...," "All Old Testament saints were saved just like we are today...,"
"All believers from every age are born again, possessors of eternal life,
and part of the Body of Christ...," etc., and make no effort to PROVE these
statements from the Bible. They make them in such a matter of fact manner
that the hearer usually does not even question them. He accepts them as
"universal truths" from the lips of a great "scholar" or preacher. Though
these remarks may sound biblical to modern ears, that does not MAKE them
For instance, concerning Old Testament saints "looking forward to the
cross," what cross? A "cross" is not mentioned in any context in
the Bible until Matthew 10:38, and a cross is not directly connected with
Jesus Christ's death until Matthew 20:19! Where does that leave Joseph,
Aaron, Gideon and the rest of the Old Testament saints? How could they
look forward to something that did not exist and God had not yet revealed?
Christ's own disciples who followed him for months didn't even understand
why Christ had to die, let alone "look ahead to a cross" (Matt. 16:22).
You say, "Well, they were looking forward to redemption, then, if not a
cross." Maybe so, but what did they know about redemption (Heb. 9:12)?
Did they know as much about it as Paul in Romans, John in 1 John, or even
YOU today? Did they know anything about someone dying on a cross for the
sins of the world to purchase and provide an eternal redemption from sin?
When Christ told Peter about His coming crucifixion it was such a shock
to Peter that he rebuked Him! Peter didn't want to even consider his master
dying on a cross, so to say he was looking forward to it absurd. We admit
it is easy to apply our rich salvation doctrines and advanced revelations
to those of other dispensations, so we must be extra careful when dividing
the Scriptures to only apply to a dispensation the doctrines valid at that
One of the strongest indications that salvation is not the same in every
age is that Old Testament saints did not go at death to the same place
New Testament saints go to when they die. Old Testament saints went to
Abraham's Bosom or "paradise" while New Testament saints go directly
into the presence of God in Heaven (2 Cor. 5:8). This alone proves there
is a difference. Christ cleared up the matter in Luke 16 concerning where
dead believers at that time went with the account of the "Rich man and
Lazarus." Before Christ, the Bible was not clear where believers went at
death. That there was a hell for the wicked was
clear, but specific details concerning where believers went were not
revealed. All that is said of Abraham, for instance, is that he was "gathered
unto his people." In Luke 16 the Lord gives advanced revelation and
says Abraham was actually in a desirable and comfortable place (called
"paradise" in Luke 23:43) across a great gulf from Hell. Abraham
and the other saints did not go into Heaven until they went up with the
Lord at His ascension (Eph. 4:8), but saints who die in the Lord today
go immediately into Heaven (2 Cor. 5:8). Obviously, our salvation is in
significant ways different than Abraham's. In light of their many similarities,
the two salvations are quite different.
In the following we are going to look at salvation in the different
dispensations and examine the similarities and differences between them.
We will be very careful and try not to make the mistakes of many today
who read doctrines from one period into another, forcing the Bible line
up with their "private interpretation." Remember, the Bible is not
a Baptist book written only for Baptists (or others) in this present age,
it is a Jewish book written to people of all ages declaring different manners
and doctrines for each period.
Before the fall Adam was not in a "lost" condition, thus he didn't need
to be saved from non-existent sins. But, as we mentioned before, Adam was
not righteous either. Adam and Eve are the only people ever who have been
in such a purely innocent state. When they were created, they didn't have
any acquired knowledge of anything. Even with all their potential "brain
power," they were essentially in a state of ignorance. Though Adam was
created a full grown man (likely appearing around 30 years old), he knew
nothing about being a full grown man. All he knew was what God had built
into him as instinct. As soon as he became conscious, however, Adam began
to learn things through three methods: he learned from observation,
he learned by attempting to do things (experience), and he learned
what God revealed to him with WORDS. Adam knew nothing about holiness,
righteousness, purity, etc., nor about rebellion, wickedness, sin, and
salvation. He was truly innocent—but also ignorant of the most essential
things. All he knew about his Creator was what He revealed to him, and
essentially all God revealed to him about Himself and His nature can be
found in Genesis chapters 1-2 under the Edenic Covenant (see chapter 1).
Notice when instructing Adam God does not go into long speeches about
the benefits of doing right and the consequences of doing wrong. He knew
Adam had no experimental concept of these matters. What is "right" to someone
who has never seen or experienced "wrong"? On the other hand, what is "wrong"
to someone who has never consciously chosen to do "right"? God was testing
Adam in Eden and gave him a free will to make a choice, but the choice,
as far as Adam is concerned, is not between "right and wrong," but between
God and something else!
Before He would let Adam stumble upon it by accident, God, in love,
warned him of the deadly result of eating of the Tree of Knowledge. Since
Adam had no concept of "wrong," God did not tell him it was wrong to eat
of it. He told him only that it would kill him and it was His will for
him NOT to eat of it. True, Adam didn't know what death was either, but
he didn't have to, to make the right choice. Wasn't God's WORDS telling
him He didn't want him to eat of it enough? Adam didn't have to know all
the details. God's warning showed Adam He loved him, cared for him, and
didn't want him to die. Furthermore, God also put the "Tree of Life"
in the garden to give Adam a positive alternative, but neither was it "right"
to eat of this tree. Again, the test was not between right and wrong or
good and evil, but would man love God in return for His love and obey Him,
or love something else more.
The Serpent also knew of Adam and Eve's moral ignorance, and he used
it to further his evil purpose. As mentioned before Satan used the desire
for "knowledge" to deceive Eve into eating of the forbidden tree, but Adam,
who was NOT deceived and who heard the warning directly from God's mouth,
decided he loved Eve more than he loved God and ate also. Though he knew
his action was against God's will, Adam was willing to suffer death with
Eve ("whatever that is," there was no death before the fall) rather than
live with God. As a result of eating Adam, became a "sinner." He received
the lusted for knowledge of good and evil, but he also became lost,
spiritually dead, headed for physical death, alienated from God, and afraid
in the process. He gained much knowledge in a few short moments, but
definitely the wrong kind.
When Adam ate he did not fall from what we consider today as salvation,
but he did fall from innocence to sin, from a relatively safe position
into iniquity. When he was in innocence (remember, not righteousness) he
was much better off than in guilt, and in this sense he fell from safety—salvation.
On the other hand, if Adam had eaten of the Tree of Life instead he may
have acquired righteousness. Though the Bible does not plainly say
that he would, it is somewhat implied since he obtained an evil nature
from the Tree of Knowledge. If this is true and he did eat of the Tree
of Life instead of the Tree of Knowledge, he would have still obtained
the knowledge they desired. Not by doing a sinful act, but by doing a righteous
act. They would have knowledge similar to the way God has knowledge of
good and evil. Not by committing an act of sin and realizing righteousness
as the opposite, but by doing an act of righteousness and knowing sin as
God does not have to be a sinner to know what sin is. Since He is righteous
by nature, He knows sin is everything that is contrary to Him. Everything
and anything contrary to God is sin. He is the absolute standard, and His
infallible word is His vehicle to convey this standard to man. Adam likely
would have known this too if he had loved God enough to eat of the right
tree. Having only a righteous nature he would have been saved from the
possibility of sinning (eternal security) because a righteous man cannot
Nevertheless, what we want the reader to realize is Adam's "salvation"
before the fall was based entirely upon works. If Adam neglected
the work of eating from the freely offered Tree of Life (as he did), he
would never have had all God wanted for him (eternal life, righteousness,
etc.). If he refused to eat of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge (another
work), he would not have become a sinner. Clearly, Adam could be "saved"
or lost only by works! To not work either way was to remain in the limbo
of mere innocence. Faith or the lack thereof had nothing to do with the
matter. In fact, Adam did not doubt what God had said about the tree in
the least; he knew he would die if he ate of it! He believed God
was telling him the truth. Thus Adam didn't have a lack of faith, he just
had the wrong works.
At this point you may be thinking, "What about Romans 4, Galatians 2,
Ephesians 2, and all the other passages which say works have nothing to
do with salvation?" This is a good question, but be careful Christian;
as we have stated before, don't assume everything found in the Bible applies
doctrinally to everybody in every age. Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and
much of the rest of Paul's epistles apply to us today, but they did
not apply to Adam. All Adam knew about these things was what God said
to him in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, and we must not read anymore into it.
If we read our doctrines back into his or any other's day, we wrest the
Scriptures and end up with a doctrinal fantasy. Nowhere can we find where
Adam was to have faith in anyone or believe in anyone, neither was the
"new birth" or anything related to it even vaguely hinted at. Everything
hinged upon Adam's works.
One can easily see how Adam's dispensational setup concerning salvation
is drastically different to our's today. Now, salvation is a free gift,
entirely by grace through faith apart from any works whatsoever. Furthermore,
a born again believer is much more than just forgiven or innocent in God's
sight, he is RIGHTEOUS. He has the imputed righteousness of his Savior
Jesus Christ. God knew when he devised eternal salvation that man needed
much more than just his sins forgiven and placed back into an innocent
state, he needs the righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ. From this position
the believer CANNOT fall because he is in Christ and Christ is in him.
God does not see the saved New Testament believer as only innocent (as
Adam was), He sees him positionally with the perfect and spotless
righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. We receive much more in Christ
than we lost in Adam (Rom. 5:20).
After the fall things were much different for Adam and Eve. Their sin
brought guilt, the guilt brought shame, and all three together
brought fear. They were now truly lost, and the knowledge of it
scared them. What could they do now? Their new knowledge did not supply
the answer for this question. They tried to cover their sin with fig leaves,
but that did not relieve their conscious of guilt. "What will God think
when He sees us?"
The Lord was very gentle with His sinning creation. He did not consume
them in His wrath or even belittle them. He just questioned them enough
to get them to confess their sin and admit their guilt. After they
confessed God offered His own covering for their sin in place of their
self-righteous fig leaves, and they accepted. By doing so they abandoned
their own means of dealing with sin for God's means, and that is all God
asked of them. Here, however, we begin to see the entrance of faith concerning
salvation. They did not need to have faith that God existed because He
was right before them, but they did need to have faith in something God
had promised to do. Of course, they were not to believe on someone
who would die on a cross thousands of years later to redeem them from their
sins, such a thing was unrevealed and unknown. All they knew was God was
in some way going to send the "seed" of the woman to bruise the
head of the serpent's seed and this would in some way deal with their sin
and the curses. Looking forward to the "cross" is out of the question.
All they knew was what God had shown and told them, nothing else. Of course,
we today can look back and see the cross in Genesis 3:15 and 3:21, but
this means nothing to Adam. He and Eve were saved by believing what God
had said (faith) and by putting on the "coats of skins" God
The coats of skins, which God obtained by killing the animals, showed
Adam (and us) two very important lessons. First, God was willing to provide
salvation to man; second, a substitute could purchase a sinner's
salvation with its life. We can see these lessons very clearly now, but
Adam did not have the advanced revelation we enjoy and was not certain
of what all he observed meant.
Cain and Abel
After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God did not appear
to them again. Since God no longer walked among His creation, faith came
even more into play concerning His dealings with man. Cain and Abel were
born after the expulsion and there is no record they ever saw God or heard
Him speak (Cain did hear Him AFTER he offered his bloodless sacrifice).
Apparently, all they knew of God was what they learned from their parents.
When they went to offer sacrifices for their sins they were offering them
by faith to a God they did not personally know, so their salvation, as
well as (it appears) the salvation of all others in the Dispensation
of Conscience, was based on faith along with an element of works.
Abel had the right faith and the right works; Cain had some faith but the
wrong works, but each must have works to be accepted.
God told Cain, "If thou DOEST well, shalt thou not be accepted?"
(Gen. 4:7). Suppose Abel would have said, "I believe I am a sinner, and
I believe God is willing to cover my sins if I offer a bloody substitute,"
but he did not offer the substitute, would he still be accepted? There
is no indication he would have. He would have been in the same unaccepted
condition as Cain. Along with his faith Abel had to perform the WORK of
killing the offering and offer it to God before he would be respected (Gen.
4:4). As for Cain, he had faith that God existed (like the devils, Jam.
2:19), but he did not have the faith and works to present the proper sacrifice
to God. Abel was respected by God because of faith and works, and Cain
was rejected by the lack of the same. Either way works played a part in
the salvation of many during this period.
From what the Scriptures reveal to us about the Dispensation of Conscience,
every saved person in it was saved by grace through faith with works playing
a part. Furthermore, with a few notable exceptions (which we will examine
shortly) every saved person in the entire Old Testament was saved by
faith connected with works. When people in the Old Testament were saved
nothing happened IN them spiritually. Of course, God imputed righteousness
to their account when they obeyed him, but they were not regenerated,
a son of God, indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit, part of the body of
Christ, and the rest of the salvation doctrines unique to this age.
Their sins were only covered, not taken away. In many ways they
were saved on credit because Christ had not yet died on the cross
to purchase their eternal redemption. But those in the Dispensation
of Conscience knew practically none of this. Again, all they knew was
what God had revealed up to that time as found in Genesis chapter 3:
1. Man is a sinner and doomed to death (3:7).
2. Man and the earth are cursed because of Adam's sin (3:17).
3. The woman's "seed" will bruise the head of the serpent's
seed (they MAY have understood this to somehow relieve man of sin, death,
and the curses), and the serpent's seed will bruise the woman's seed's
4. Man has a knowledge of good and evil; a conscience that will excuse
or convict his heart (3:5-6).
5. God will offer man a covering to cover his sin (3:21.
6. An animal substitute can supply the covering (3:21).
If God had other requirements of people during this dispensation they
are not mentioned until we come to Noah. Reading New Testament doctrines
into this time period brings nothing but confusion. Also, there is no reason
to believe, or any verse to suggest that these people could not loose their
salvation during this period. We will look more into this later, but nearly
all of those saved in the Old Testament simply did not have anything in
them (indwelling Holy Spirit) or any promise from God to permanently
secure their salvation. Therefore, one could by faith (along with works)
be saved and be on the right path toward "enduring to the end," and then,
by a lack of faith fall away and loose all they gained. In a nutshell people
are saved in every dispensation by simply doing what God SAYS. Sometimes
it is works alone, sometimes faith alone, and sometimes both faith and
Noah and the Ark
Noah is the first person God gave a direct command to since Adam. Noah
was found righteous (his own righteousness by works, not Christ's) by God
among his generation of wickedness (Gen. 7:1), and God, by His grace, told
him to build an ark to protect him from His wrath. With this command God
added (to Noah and his family only) another requirement for salvation beside
those so far revealed—to build an ark. Noah's faith is readily seen in
his immediate obedience in beginning to build. He trusted God's word no
matter how silly it may have sounded to others and went to work—faith
supplemented by works. Here, some say, "The building of the ark was
only for Noah's physical salvation, not his soul's salvation. He was saved
only by faith." Really? Show us the chapter and verse that says so.
Where in Genesis chapters 1 through 7 can you find where Noah was saved
by faith alone? Can't find it anyplace? How about searching the
whole Bible, New Testament and all, for a verse that says Noah was saved
by faith alone? Peter plainly says he was saved by water while in the ark
(1 Pet. 3:20). You say, "Only his body was saved by water." Okay, PROVE
IT with Scripture! If you can't you had better quit trusting someone else's
opinion or your emotions for doctrine and begin trusting the Scriptures
alone. Again, don't try to read Church Age doctrines into the past. John
chapter 3 won't fit into Genesis chapter 6 no matter how hard you force
it. If the ark had nothing to do with Noah's spiritual salvation, then
the people who drowned in the flood may have been saved too, just not physically!
God told Noah to build an ark, and if he refused, he would have drowned;
simple as that. Do you think he would have drowned saved? On what grounds?
That Noah was found righteous (a righteousness based upon his OWN works
relative to other men) at the beginning would mean nothing if he disobeyed
a direct command from God; he would no longer be considered righteous.
Since he refused to do what God said, he would likely perish just like
the rest of the world. Unless God intervened and offered another means
of salvation (as He did with Adam), Noah would have died lost—an unrepentant
sinner. His quick obedience in building the ark, however, proved he had
the proper faith. Faith supplemented by works. Today, saved people can
refuse to do what God has commanded and they DON'T forfeit their salvation.
Millions of regenerated believers disobey God's commands and their salvation
is unaffected. Why? The difference is in the dispensations and also in
what happens INSIDE the believer. You should be beginning to see, Christian,
how you have a much more gracious age to live under with much better promises
to claim than those of the past. We have many more privileges than Noah,
but with the privileges come responsibilities.
Now we come to Abraham, and he is an interesting case. With him God introduces
the first instance of salvation ONLY by faith. Not New Testament salvation
by a long shot, but salvation by faith. Abraham is known as "faithful
Abraham" because of his great faith in God, but his faith was not always
great. When God first spoke to him, his faith was not even enough to save
him! Many forget that when Abraham obeyed God and went into the land as
God commanded (Gen. 12), he wasn't saved. He didn't get saved until Genesis
15:6, several years later! All through chapters 12, 13, 14, and the first
few verses of 15, Abraham was dead lost! Before he was saved Abraham had
works, he forsook his homeland and moved to Canaan, and he had some faith,
he believed God enough to go, but he did not have enough or the right kind
of faith for God to save him until Genesis chapter 15.
In Genesis 15:6 Abraham finally exercised enough faith in what God had
said and was saved. Before he heard the promises of having descendants
and becoming a great nation, but he didn't fully believe them until chapter
15. God was showing Abraham that He was capable of keeping His word and
was worthy to be trusted. In a larger sense God was showing mankind that
no matter how great and seemingly unlikely to be fulfilled His promises
are, He is fully capable of keeping them. Abraham was the first to trust
God this far, and spiritually he is the "father" of all who exercise like
faith and believe God for salvation.
Abraham's salvation is like ours today in only one respect: he was saved
"by grace through faith" apart from works with righteousness
imputed to his account. To receive salvation Abraham simply took God
at His word. His faith and the faith of believers today is the same kind
and in the same God, but here the similarities end. What Abraham believed
God would do is drastically different from what one is to believe today.
Abraham believed his "seed" would number as the stars in heaven,
and God saved him for it. He believed nothing about someone dying on a
cross for his sins or anything like that, he could only believe in what
God had revealed to him. Furthermore, to show how different his salvation
is from a believer's today note:
1. Abraham was not regenerated or born again. Nothing happened
inside him when he was saved. Dozens of things happen in a born again Christian.
2. He was not a "son of God." Since he was not "born of God"
he could not be a son of God, neither could he ever call God his father.
3. He did not receive the Holy Spirit permanently to indwell
or seal him.
4. He was not placed in Christ nor was Christ in him.
5. He did not receive a new nature. All he ever had was the
6. He had no completed atonement to eternally redeem him.
7. He did not go to Heaven when he died.
Though Abraham was saved by faith as we are today, clearly the salvation
his faith brought him is not the same salvation we presently enjoy. James
even tell us that Abraham's justification was not completed until
he offered Isaac up in Genesis 22 (James 2:21)! He was imputed righteousness
in chapter 15 and thus saved, but he was not fully justified until
he performed the WORK of offering Isaac in chapter 22. James doesn't hesitate
to tell us Abraham was justified by works after he was saved (James
2:21). On the contrary a believer today is justified the instant he trusts
Christ for his salvation. All of the eternal aspects of salvation occur
instantly and simultaneously when he believes. Paul, in Romans and Galatians,
uses Abraham as a figure of Church Age salvation, but he is only that,
a figure; not an exact picture. Abraham was saved when he believed
God was going to do something He SAID He would do (Rom. 4:20-22), and so
are we saved, but again, what we are to believe is very different from
what Abraham believed.
Suppose someone today sincerely believed God would give him descendants
that number as the stars of heaven as the basis of his salvation, would
such faith save him? Hardly. No matter how much he believed it he would
remain lost. Not because he didn't have enough faith, but because he had
it in the wrong promise. God has revealed much more to man since the days
of Abraham, and man is required to believe and act on the more recent revelation
(Jesus Christ) to be saved. At this point you may be thinking, "Yes, but
Christ said Himself that Abraham saw His day and was glad (John 8:56),
so he must have believed on Christ." Now wait a minute. First of all Christ's
words refer to Genesis 22 when Isaac was offered, not Genesis 15 when Abraham
was saved; and second, Abraham did not in some supernatural sense gaze
into the future and see Christ on the cross. He saw Christ's day in that
he believed Isaac would be resurrected from death, not by supposedly seeing
the future crucifixion of the Son of God by a miraculous vision.
Abraham not only believed God was able to resurrect Isaac, he believed
God WOULD resurrect him after he was slain! He was glad because by faith
he saw the resurrection of his "seed" and was convinced God
would fulfill all of His promises to him through this resurrected seed.
Abraham saw in Isaac a figure of a "son" slain because of sin and
later resurrected, but he did not see the figure fulfilled in Christ. Of
course, with the Scriptures as hindsight, we can see both clearly.
From Abraham on the opportunity for salvation belonged only to one family
at the exclusion of all others. Christ said "salvation is of the Jews"
(John 4:22), and Abraham is the first Jew. He was saved while still a Gentile
(Rom. 4), but when the covenant was sealed with the sign of circumcision
(Gen. 17), Abraham became the first Jew. The Lord told Abraham "in Isaac
shall thy seed be called," so Isaac inherited his promises. Isaac likely
believed the promises as much as his father. This is indicated in Genesis
22 where he allows Abraham to bind him for a burnt offering. Since Abraham
was an old man and Isaac a youth, it is not likely Abraham could have tied
Isaac up if Isaac would not have allowed him. He loved his father and also
had faith in his father's God, believing that he would yet live.
Isaac's son Jacob also desired the promises. This is evident when he
bought his brother Esau's birthright for a bowl of pottage. Even though
Jacob was a "supplanter" and "deceiver" most of his life,
he still had an eye for the promises God gave to his fathers (Gen. 28:10-22;
35:9-15). Esau, the first born, did not think the birthright was worth
much or he wouldn't have sold it. That God would later identify Himself
to Moses as the God of "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" testifies of
their saving faith in Him. Because of their faith all three of them are
still alive even though they are physically dead, for "God is not the
God of the dead but of the living" (Matt. 22:32).
Jacob's twelve sons further inherit the promises and become the twelve
tribes of Israel. How many of these twelve and their descendants in Egypt
trusted God for the promises is unknown. Certainly Joseph did, and likely
most or all of his brethren, but we know of no passage that proves it.
The Bible doesn't tell us everything we may like to know, but it tells
us everything we NEED to know. Every believer must be careful not to let
emotion or opinion influence his quest for sound doctrine. Assumed
doctrines nearly always lead to heresy, so if a believer can't reasonably
show something is true with Scripture, don't assume it is true just because
it sounds "scholarly."
In summary, salvation during the 2500 years from Adam to Moses was by
grace through faith with works indicating and fulfilling the faith.
There was no new birth then or any of the Church Age doctrines that go
with it because it was not yet available (John 7:39). Neither did those
saved go to Heaven when they died (with the exception of Enoch and later
Elijah who are special cases). Though faith was to be in God, it had to
be in a promise God had revealed. To believe God existed was not enough;
one had to believe and act upon what God had revealed to him for
the person to be saved. What God said to Adam, He didn't say to Abel; what
He commanded Noah (ark), He did not command Abraham, etc. Each person had
to believe what was relevant to him.
As for works God required a certain degree of personal righteousness
of all (Noah preached righteousness while building the ark, 2 Pet. 2:5),
and also obedience of any personal commands He might give. At least up
until Abraham, to only believe the revelations, commands, and promises
was not sufficient, each person had to act on them and continue
doing so, to secure his salvation. As in every age each individual is responsible
for following his conscience and coming to God for salvation when he realizes
he has broken it (Rom. 2:15). Faith was, of course, the major component
in this salvation equation, but for many works were also essential. The
works were really an indicator the person had the right faith. If a person
had faith but was unable to perform the works (sacrifice, etc.),
God likely took this into consideration. But if a person acted like he
had faith and really didn't and still performed works (like Cain), he remained
lost. Faith had to come first, and it motivated the works. Of the millions
of people who lived during this period (around 2500 years), we can only
find two or three dozen in the Scriptures we can say with any assurance
were truly saved.
The method of salvation during this period was not fixed; each person's
responsibility was simply to do what God said. As we have seen God
required different things of different people, unlike today where every
Christian is saved by believing a consistent gospel. Again, there are not
as many details in the Bible as we may like to have concerning salvation
before the cross, but enough is there for us to see how it is different
from our's today. This will be further manifested in the next section where
we look at salvation in the Dispensation of Law under the Mosaic
Moses the Law
As mentioned in the last chapter, while they were in Egypt the descendants
of Abraham grew into millions. During this time they were still under the
Dispensation of Promise, and there is no record that God revealed
anything new to them until Moses came along. After He commissioned Moses
to go back to Egypt and speak in His behalf, God began to reveal Himself
to His people again. Through Moses He showed both the Israelites and Egyptians
His great power with the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. He
also showed His love and concern for Israel by offering them a way to avoid
the destroyer at the first "Passover."
God's requirements of the Israelites at the first Passover (Ex. 12)
plainly show how works were involved in their salvation. No matter how
much faith each Israelite had, if he neglected to put the lamb's blood
above and beside the door, the firstborn in the house was doomed to death.
God told them in no uncertain terms they MUST APPLY the blood (works) before
He would pass over them (Ex. 12:13). Faith alone was not enough (Ex. 12:7)!
It is true their salvation was based on faith in the shed blood of a lamb,
but until the blood was applied as required, the faith was ineffective
for the salvation of the firstborn. Today, Christ Himself (who is the fulfillment
of the Passover figure), through the Holy Spirit, does the work of applying
His blood to the believer. The first Passover is one of the strongest indications
that under Law certain works were a requirement for salvation.
The physical salvation of the firstborn during the Passover was a picture
of the spiritual salvation of each individual Jew during the Dispensation
of Law. It testifies, again, that one is saved by doing what God has
said to do. Nearly 1500 years later the Passover is revealed as a picture
of the "lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world," but,
again, this was unknown to the Israelites in Egypt. They were passed over
only because they did what God told them to do They didn't fully understand
the Passover's present meaning and had no knowledge at all of its future
significance. The Passover was preparing the Israelites for the new covenant
God would make with them in Exodus 19, which was solely conditioned
After leading them out of Egypt and providing their every need in the
wilderness, God officially established His covenant with them at Mt. Sinai.
Again, this covenant is conditioned entirely upon works. Israel as a nation
and also each individual was to keep all the requirements of the law, and
when they failed, offer the proper sacrifice or possibly forfeit their
salvation. The punishment for individuals who failed to obey was being
"cut off from among his people" (Ex. 31:14). This "cutting off"
was often physical death (Num. 9:13; 15:30-31), but more than that it was
being cut off from the promises and covenant connected with Israel.
In effect, cut off from salvation or the opportunity to obtain it.
We will see as we go along that works play a larger role concerning salvation
under the Law than it did before.
The Mosaic Covenant and the Dispensation of Law was for
the most part a series of rules, regulations, conditional blessings,
curses, laws, statutes, commandments, memorials, etc., which were in
the larger sense designed to show man his evil nature and sin (Rom. 3:20).
But to the Israelites of the time it was a religious system based on strict
obedience with little or no mercy for the lawbreaker. Paul said it was
"not of faith, but the man that DOETH them shall live by them" (Gal.
3:12), indicating its demand for obedience. Faith alone could not deliver
the "sinner." In fact, "faith" is only found two times in
the whole Old Testament (Deut. 32:20; Hab. 2:4), and in both places it
refers to a man's own faith, not the saving faith God provides believers
today (Eph. 2:8-9).
What God demanded of Israel was for them to do what they promised at
Sinai (Ex. 19, see chapter 1), obey His every word. If they obeyed as a
nation, He cared for and blessed them as a nation; if they refused, He
eventually cursed and scattered them. This is clear in Deuteronomy chapters
28-30. Concerning individuals, however, salvation was not so clear. If
an Israelite (or proselyte) feared God, wanted to please Him by trying
to obey all His laws, and offered the proper sacrifices when he failed,
at that moment one could assume he was in a saved state. Unlike today,
there was no clear and simple faith "formula" given. Since nothing spiritually
happened inside these people to "preserve" them and they had no promise
of security to claim, their salvation was not unconditionally permanent.
It appears if one at any time had a lack of faith, works, or both to
a certain degree, his salvation was in jeopardy. Only God knew who
was saved for certain at any given time. The individual in most cases likely
did not know exactly where he stood regarding his salvation. At one point
God told Elijah only 7000 Jews had not bowed their knee to Baal out of
all the millions of Israel. The others had broken the covenant and apparently
forfeited their salvation (if they had it to start with) by worshipping
a false god.
When works are involved in salvation it is difficult to know where one
stands with God. The person seldom, if ever, had complete assurance that
he was accepted because a future failure could cost him everything. All
he could do was trust in God and to the best of his ability do what God
required of him. When he failed he must repent, offer the appropriate sacrifice,
and beseech God for forgiveness and restoration (Psalm 51). In contrast,
every believer today can have absolute assurance of salvation because he
is not trusting any in his works but in the shed blood and works of another,
his Lord Jesus Christ
In Exodus 34:6-7 God told Moses concerning salvation He was "merciful
and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping
mercy for thousands, forgiving inequity and transgression and sin...,"
but the Lord goes on to say that all of these blessings "...will by
no means CLEAR the guilty"! In the Old Testament when someone was saved
and forgiven according to God's mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness,
truth, etc., he was still not cleared from his guilt. This is an important
lesson. Remission and forgiveness of sins is NOT redemption. In
the Old Testament God did forgive people and treat them as such but only
with a view of the redemption Christ would later purchase on Calvary (Rom.
3:25). With the atonement that could "take away" their sins and clear them
not yet available, salvation was only a decree, and the individuals remained
inherently guilty. They were only forgiven sinners, not regenerated, justified,
redeemed Christians. This is the main reason Old Testament saints didn't
go to Heaven at death. Even though righteousness was imputed to their account,
they were still in every other way guilty sinners.
The best way to see how salvation worked under the Law is to examine
the lives of some people who lived during that period and study what the
Scriptures reveal. Again, salvation is somewhat elusive and hard to consistently
pin down under the Law, but the study of a few representative individuals
will help one understand how different it is from Church Age salvation.
Clear statements of salvation, like Abraham's (Gen. 15:6), are very rare
under the Law. For the most part one is only left to assume the salvation
of many individuals by noting circumstantial evidence that suggests (but
does not prove) their salvation. One can conclusively prove the salvation
of very few people in the entire Old Testament.
The first time Aaron, the onetime High Priest, is mentioned in the Bible
is when God rebukes Moses for trying to get out of his commission to deliver
the Israelites in Exodus chapter 4. Because of his complaining, God told
Moses his brother Aaron would be his mouth and speak what God had spoken
to him (Ex. 4:16, 30). After Moses came down from Sinai, Aaron met him
and Moses relayed to Aaron all God had said to him (vs.28). Aaron received
the words of the Lord and accepted his commission from God to be Moses'
spokesperson. When they returned to Egypt, "Aaron spake all the words
the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
And the people believed..." (vs. 30-31). Everything in the chapter
indicates Aaron (along with Moses) is saved. He obeyed the Lord in going
into the wilderness to seek Moses (vs. 27); he received God's word through
Moses (vs. 28); and he did the work of speaking God's word and performing
the signs (vs. 30). It appears he did everything he knew to do and all
that God had reveled for him to do. From this we may reasonably assume
he was saved; not born again, but saved in the Old Testament sense.
While he was in Egypt, Aaron saw God do many mighty things through himself
and Moses. He saw firsthand the character, power, and salvation of the
Lord and took part in the greatest Exodus in history. Everything was looking
good, but a few weeks later when they were in the wilderness, things changed.
After God had made His covenant with Israel (Ex. 19) and revealed His laws
(Ex. 20-24), Moses again went up to Sinai for more instructions (Ex. 24:18).
While he was on the mount "the people" got restless, and they demanded
Aaron to make them "gods" to worship (Ex. 32:1). (Man must worship
something. If he refuses to worship the true God, he will worship a false
one, even if it is himself!) After all he had seen and all God had done
through him and for him, Aaron was quick to entertain Israel's idolatry
and instructed them to bring gold. Out of this gold he made a calf and
the people said, "These be thy gods, O Israel," and they had a feast
and offered the calf a burnt offering (Ex. 32:4). How quickly Israel and
Aaron abandoned their God.
The Lord told Moses what Israel was doing, and filled with wrath He
was ready to consume the whole nation (Ex. 32:10). Furthermore,
He was especially angry with Aaron, enough to destroy him (Deut. 9:20).
Now, what about Aaron's salvation? Could someone who readily broke
the first two commandments still be saved? Even though Aaron may have been
coerced into the situation, he still chose to encourage the people in their
idolatry rather than rebuke them. Moses brought up the promises God had
previously made and the Lord repented of offering to consume Israel, including
Aaron, but after Moses came down and saw the idolatry himself, he too
was filled with wrath (Ex. 32:19)! Moses confronted his brother, and Aaron,
afraid, tried to wiggle out of the blame (vs. 22), but the damage was done.
Moses charges Aaron with bringing a great sin upon Israel.
If Aaron died at this time, where would he go? Are you sure (chapter
and verse)? Moses knew the dire consequences of this sin and was willing
to have his name blotted out of God's book if it would atone for
Israel, including Aaron (Ex. 32:32). Moses' actions indicate that the salvation
of all those involved was on precarious ground since he was apparently
willing to sacrifice his salvation for theirs. They had either lost
their salvation or were on the verge of losing it because God said He would
only blot out those who sinned against Him (vs. 33). What a harrowing thought,
to have one's name blotted out of God's book, but God said He WOULD
do it! At least some names were blotted out! In Psalm 69:28
this book is called the "book of the living" and is connected with righteousness.
Furthermore, this book must also concern spiritual life after death, not
just physical life. Remember, "God is not the God of the dead,
but of the living."
As for Aaron, however, we still can't prove he lost his salvation. Yes,
he was among those who greatly sinned against God, but, also, he was of
the tribe of Levi and among those who went out and slew his brother, companion,
and neighbor (Ex. 32:27-29), indicating he was again on the Lord's side.
Killing one's family and friends if need be would require much consecration
(vs. 29), and apparently Aaron had it. He knew what he did was wrong, but
when given the opportunity to do right he repented and joined with those
who follow the Lord. Needless to say Aaron was not killed that day, but
the status of his salvation during his great sin is unknown.
Maybe Aaron lost his salvation when he made the calf (a lack of faith,
and the wrong works) and gained it back when he fought on the Lord's side.
Maybe he didn't lose it at all, but apparently about 3000 did and died
that way (vs. 28, 33)! If God blotted them out of his book and they died
in that condition, they were certainly lost. See what we mean when we say
salvation under the Law is indefinite and "shifty"? Many today may arrogantly
claim, "Of course Aaron was saved, and it was impossible for him to loose
his salvation because Romans chapter 3 says... etc. etc.," but this PROVES
nothing. We are interested in what the Bible says, not in the opinions
of someone who refuses to divide the Scriptures or is guided more by emotions
and "historic positions" than a desire for the truth.
God, again, graciously used Aaron (as High Priest) in spite of the events
in Exodus 32, and after serving Him for 40 years Aaron was stripped of
his priestly garments and sent to the top of Mt. Hor to die. God told Moses
Aaron would be "gathered unto his people" (Num. 20:24) just like
Abraham was and Moses was later (Deut. 32:50). So, in the end, everything
indicates Aaron died saved and right with God; but if he died that idolatrous
day at Sinai, the Lord only knows.
Next we will briefly look at Samson, the judge of Israel. As far as works
are concerned Samson had plenty, but they were nearly all bad. He sought
a heathen Philistine woman and married her (Judges 14:1); he broke his
Nazerite vows by touching dead bodies and not offering a sacrifice to remove
his uncleanness (14:6); he killed 30 men only for their clothes (14:19);
he went in unto a harlot (16:1); he later went unto another woman—Delilah
(16:4); he lied to Delilah (16:7, 11); he revealed the secret of his strength
(16:17); and finally committed suicide (16:30). Not particularly a model
life to follow.
God was long-suffering and put up with Samson's "indiscretions," but
when he gave up the secret of his strength, God left him (Jud. 16:20)!
Even though Samson was a conceited, self-indulgent, self-gratifying, woman-chaser
nearly all his life, his name is recorded with the heroes of faith
in Hebrews 11. The only time he called upon God for anything other than
right before his death was because he was thirsty (15:18), yet he is recorded
among the most faithful in history. Fascinating. How are we to understand
this? Of course, only by grace.
God was exceedingly gracious to Samson. He gave him many opportunities
to serve Him and was very patient with his behavior, but when his hair
was cut, in essence dissolving his Nazarite relationship with God, God
left him. The Scriptures plainly say, "...the Lord was departed from
him." Now, was Samson still saved? Can you prove it? Nearly everything
he did in the past was from a selfish or vengeful motive. Furthermore,
he despised his Nazarite position and neglected to remove his uncleanness
and guilt with the proper sacrifices, then he allowed his hair to be cut.
Was he saved while the Lord was departed from him? God only knows, but
the tone of the passage is not very promising. However, in faith Samson
repents (16:28) and begs God to remember him by returning and restoring
his strength. Here, the right faith is seen, and if he lost his salvation,
it was returned. We know he died saved from Hebrews 11:32.
Saul, Israel's first king, is also an interesting case. After Israel rejected
the Lord and wanted a human king to reign over them, God told Samuel to
anoint Saul (1 Sam. 9:16). In the beginning Saul was meek and humble (9:21),
and shortly after he was anointed the spirit of the Lord came upon him
and he prophesied among prophets (10:6) God also gave him another heart.
At the same time Samuel told him, "God is with thee" (10:7). Saul
became highly esteemed by Israel and they considered him a prophet (10:12).
Up to this point everything is positive concerning Saul, but was he saved?
The evidence so far would indicate he was. He had the Holy Spirit, prophesied,
and God was with him; a good testimony for anyone, but let's go on.
After following the Holy Spirit and defeating the Ammonites (11:6),
Saul's character began to change. First, he usurped the office of a priest
by offering a sacrifice himself (13:9), then he made a rash and senseless
vow causing Israel to sin and jeopardizing his son Jonathan's life (14:24,
32, 44), and after that he refused to strictly follow God's command to
"utterly destroy" Ameleck (15:3, 9). As a result of this God rejected
him as king (15:23) and took the Holy Spirit away from him replacing Him
with a devil (16:14). The rest of Saul's life was spent trying to recapture
what he had lost through disobedience. He relentlessly pursues David, his
soon to be successor, and after consulting a witch (28:8), finally dies
of suicide on a Philistine battlefield (31:4). Did Saul die saved? God
The Lord told David He took His MERCY from Saul (2 Sam. 7:15). This
is not at all a good sign. On the other hand, Samuel told Saul that when
he died he would be with him (1 Sam. 28:19, and, of course, Samuel is saved
(Heb. 11:32). However, Samuel may have only meant Saul would be with him
in death, not in the same place or state as he after death. We cannot prove
it either way. When Saul was on the right path and in fellowship with God
it would be very reasonable to conclude he was saved. But when he rebelled
and forsook God's ways, he may have fell from his "saved" state. During
the latter part of his life he had very little faith. The Holy Spirit left
Saul never to return (except to protect David 1 Sam. 19:23); Christian,
can He leave YOU (Eph. 4:30)? Anyone who says salvation is the same
in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament is simply ignorant of
Another interesting character is Joab, David's nephew and top general.
Joab is not portrayed in the Scriptures as a very spiritual person. He
is not revealed as a man of prayer or Godward devotion, and he, for the
most part, only speaks of God when it will further his cause. Joab was
very ambitious and ruthlessly stepped on anyone who stood in the way of
his lust for power. He would not even hesitate to murder if it would protect
his position. Besides murdering Abner (2 Sam. 3:27) and Amasa (20:10) in
cold blood; he caused the death of Uriah (and others) by sending him into
a foolish battle for the sole purpose of getting him killed (11:16-17);
he defied David's orders and killed Absalom (18:14); and he threatened
and treated David with disrespect (19:6-7). These are just some of his
wicked acts. Clearly, Joab is not someone to emulate.
However, after Solomon became king, Joab suddenly became "religious."
When David was near the end of his days, his eldest son, Adonijah, wanted
to be king (1 Ki. 1:5) and Joab joined him in his attempt (1:7). David
got wind of Adonijah's plan and quickly crowned Solomon king (1:43), putting
Joab on the wrong side. With David's sudden abdication and the crowning
of Solomon, Joab knew he was in a "pickle." With all his past actions and
his present allegiance to Adonijah, he knew his life wouldn't be very highly
After Solomon had Adonijah killed, Joab, believing he would be next,
ran to the tabernacle, grabbed hold of the horns of the alter, and, in
effect, pled the blood! He went there as a place of sanctuary, hoping
to receive mercy (like Adonijah had previously), but Solomon had him killed
on the spot (2:31). There is very little to indicate the salvation of Joab
until he asks for mercy at the brazen alter. Was he saved there? He appeared
to be trusting in the blood of the substitute lamb that was burning on
the alter and wanted to die beside it (2:30)? This is as close as it
gets to "looking forward to the cross" in the Old Testament, but apparently
his "faith" wasn't enough. Joab did not receive the Holy Spirit
and is not said to "sleep with his fathers" as David or be "gathered
unto his people" like Abraham. He is only referred to as dead (11:21)
like the "rich man" in Luke 16:22.
The last Old Testament person we will look at, though we could examine
several more, is David—"a man after God's own heart." Of course,
David's salvation is beyond question in spite of all his failures, but
we will see David is a special case. David appears to be saved from his
first mention in the Bible. The Holy Spirit came on him when he was anointed
to be king and never left him the rest of his life (1 Sam. 16:13). Furthermore,
his first words show his confidence in the "living God" (17:26),
and he credits God for his deliverance from the lion and the bear (17:37).
Everything seemed fine between him and God. Later, though, while he was
being pursued by Saul, David began to doubt God's promise for him to be
king (20:3). He consequently began to make some serious spiritual mistakes
(21:2; etc.). Even with the doubt and resulting sins, though, David still
mostly trusted God and respected His will (24:6-12), and God continued
to bless and protect him.
When David was finally made king, he reigned with prudence and wisdom,
and God made the previously mentioned unconditional and far-reaching covenant
with him concerning his kingdom and seed (2 Sam. 7). Again, everything
was going well for David; that is, until he eyed Bathsheba (11:2).
The events concerning Bathsheba led David to commit adultery and murder;
two sins no animal sacrifice will atone for. Those were both capital crimes
against God's law and demanded death (Lev. 20:10; Num. 35:30-32). David
knew faith in the shed blood of the lamb would not redeem him (Psa. 51:16),
and he didn't even attempt to offer it. When confronted with his unpardonable
sins, David confessed and repented and God did not require his life (2
Sam. 12:13). Ordinarily, repentance or no repentance, the adulterer and
murderer must die (Lev. 20:10; Ex. 21:14); but God, by His abundant grace,
spared David. This shows that David is an exceptional case in the
Old Testament, not typical at all. For His own reasons God granted David
"sure mercies" (Acts 13:34); the closest thing one will find to
eternal security in the Old Testament. Remember how God took His mercy
from Saul in 2 Sam. 7:15 and then promised David He wouldn't take his mercy
from his seed? There is clearly a difference, and it is by grace—pure grace.
David is a type of the New Testament Church Age believer. Still, David
was NOT born again, sealed by the Holy Spirit, or made a new creature in
Christ; he simply had a promise from God of "sure mercies,"
and this promise secured his salvation.
Whether David fully understood these "sure mercies" is not clear,
but understanding them is not necessary for them to be effective. Many
today do not realize the riches of the salvation they have, but, nevertheless,
the riches are still there. David did know, however, that the Holy Spirit
could be taken from him and he begged God not to do it (Psa. 51:11).
He knew his sins warranted such action, but he dreaded the thought of losing
his precious comforter which represented communion and fellowship with
God. This great dread of losing the Holy Spirit is one reason David is
called "a man after God's own heart." As many of his psalms testify,
he dearly loved the things of God and the presence of God. Obviously, David
is an exception to the rule dealing with salvation under the Law. He was
given "exceedingly great and precious promises" that God did not
give to any other person in the Old Testament, including Abraham and Moses.
See how hard it is to pin salvation down under the Law? We can look
at the apostle Paul and see clearly where he was saved in Acts 9; we have
no problem seeing 3000 others get saved on the day of Pentecost in Acts
2; we can with the utmost confidence believe everyone who receives Jesus
Christ in him has eternal, everlasting life, but the salvation of many
prominent characters in the Old Testament is hard to positively determine.
Remember, in the Old Testament salvation was an EXTERNAL decree by God
when certain conditions were met; it was not finalized until Christ purchased
eternal redemption at Calvary. Church Age salvation is an INTERNAL act
of regeneration performed by the permanently indwelling Christ through
the Holy Spirit. The external decree of salvation could be rescinded because
of disobedience or rebellion, but the internal new birth cannot be undone.
The former salvation is indefinite and variable according to God's good
pleasure, and the latter is permanent, invariable, and fixed because of
God's good pleasure. Who are we to take issue with God's methods? Our duty
is not to question but believe and obey all that He says.
The five individual cases we have examined above reveal how varied salvation
could be under the law. Faith had a part, and works had a part, but only
God determined how much of each He required to decree each person saved.
There were no fixed requirements. God evidently took many things into consideration
before salvation was decreed: what had been revealed to the person, how
much "light" the person had, how much opportunity the person had to do
what was required, what the person did with what he knew, etc. God is a
God of mercy and grace, but still, His justice and holiness must be satisfied.
Since there was no new birth to distinguish the lost from the saved, God
saved those who did (and continued to do) what He said.
At first it appears Aaron had the proper faith and acceptable
works, but at Sinai he lacked both. Samson had the Holy Spirit,
but after many evil works He left him; however, after he exercised faith,
the Holy Spirit returned. Saul had some good works but a lack of
faith, and the Holy Spirit left him never to return. Joab had a
little faith and evil works but in the end went to the altar to "plead
the blood" for mercy. And David had some evil works and unbelief,
but at other times he had good works and much faith. He further prayed
that the Holy Spirit would not leave him, and He never did. What a collage
of "experiences." The Holy Spirit leaves one and later returns; He leaves
another but does not return; and He could have left a third but didn't!
Does this sound anything like New Testament salvation? How could anyone
say salvation is the same in the Old Testament as in the New?
In summary, salvation under the Law was fundamentally different from
our's today. Then, faith backed by works were required; today, faith
alone is sufficient. Then, nothing spiritual happened inside a believer;
today, many things happen. Then, salvation was only decreed on credit;
today, it is internally and spiritually applied. Then, believers
didn't go to heaven when they died; today, all believers go there.
Then, the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell and seal believers; today,
He does both. etc. etc. Do you now see the fallacy of those
who claim salvation in every age is the same? It is not even the same between
different dispensations in the Old Testament, let alone the same as today's.
David's son, Solomon (who after years of faithfulness forsook God and
worshipped devils [1 Kings 11] and died leaving no record of ever having
repented! Another interesting case), spoke the definitive statement concerning
Old Testament Salvation. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 he said, "Fear God, and
keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." No mention
of a redeemer or cross; no mention of redemption or regeneration; no mention
of believing on or receiving anybody; just fear God and keep His commandments.
What commandments? Whatever ones God has revealed and made valid for the
person and time. This is as plain as it gets (see also Micah 6:7-8).
In the next chapter we will move into the New Testament and examine
salvation there. We will look at the transitional change from the Law to
Grace and study the changes in salvation this new dispensation brought
Go To Chapter III