Salvation Before the Savior, part 2

The question is, how did people get saved before Jesus?  This is part 2 of my answer.

In the previous post, I laid out the objective basis/ground of salvation:  that Jesus accomplished redemption once for all on Calvary’s Cross, and that the value of his accomplishment APPLIED IN BOTH DIRECTIONS IN HISTORY.  In other words, he died for people who would come after him, and he died for people who came before him.  He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world–his death was a “done deal” in the mind of God from the beginning of time, and God applied its effects from the dawn of humankind.

Redemption Accomplished.

Now, let’s turn to Redemption Applied, specifically in those days before Christ.

1.  Christ died for all (1 Jn 2:2), yet not all benefit in his death.  Here’s the biblical standard:  And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11, 12, NKJV).   So you’ve got to “have the Son of God”, Jesus, to have eternal life/salvation.

But this hardly seems fair, because, after all, how could people before Jesus have believed in Jesus? Shouldn’t we give them a pass? What would Jesus do? Check out this passage: Luke 24:13-35.  It’ll open in a new window.  Go ahead, I’ll wait……….  I can tell if you did it or not……….

Okay, here’s the short form:  The newly resurrected Jesus meets up with some guys traveling the road to Emmaus.  They don’t recognize him.  They’re waving their arms and blustering about all the furor over Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Jesus asks what’s up.  They ask if he’s been living in a hole, and hasn’t he heard all the news about this guy named Jesus, which would have been so embarrassing if they’d known who he was.  They’re in a tizzy and lost in confusion over these happenings.

Jesus rebukes them.

Think about that…  He rebukes their tizziness.  The rebukes their confusion.  Let’s ask the WWJD question about people who lived before (and contemporaneously with) him.  What would Jesus do?  

He would rebuke them. 


2.  Because the Old Testament Scriptures clearly portrayed the coming Savior in both his death and resurrection, in both his humiliation and glorification.  Clearly.  Clearly.  With enough clarity to make a person culpable for not getting it.  That was Jesus’ clear position, I’m not making it up.  Check it out for yourself: “Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27, NKJV).  

To Jesus, the gospel message was clearly set forth in the Old Testament.  

But you say, of course, Jesus, being God, could read between the lines and find the gospel in the Old Testament.  And Jesus would lovingly smack you upside the head, and say, “NEVER read between the lines.  Read the lines!”  For Jesus, the message was clear enough to the 2 men on the road to Emmaus for him to call them Foolish and Slow of Heart to Believe all that the prophets have written.  

It was clear.  

It was clear enough for the Rich man whose crumbs Lazarus ate, too… and for his brothers.  “But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31, NKJV).

We are saved by trusting in the Savior who came long ago.  Old Testament people were saved by trusting in the Savior would would come long after them.  Timing, in this case, is irrelevant.

3.  Old Testament people foresaw Jesus with a lot more clarity than we given them credit for.  Without reading anything backwards into the OT from the NT, the OT alone contained the entire gospel.  


  • That’s why Jesus could rebuke not only his traveling buddies on the road to Emmaus, but also the Pharisees, and Nicodemus, and anybody else who missed the point.   
  • That’s why OT saints like David could rejoice:  
    • “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity… (Psalms 32:2, NKJV, Cf. Rom 4:8) 
    • “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms 103:3-5, NKJV).”  
    • He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. (Psalms 103:10, NKJV).
    • For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. (Psalms 103:11-13, NKJV).
    • (I’m tempted to quote the whole 103rd psalm, but I’ll curb my enthusiasm.
  • That’s why the Lawgiver (Moses) could write, ““Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16, NKJV).  SALVATION WAS A HEART MATTER, NOT A LAWKEEPING MATTER.  

    The covenant of grace (Abraham) preceded the giving of the law by 430 years, says Paul.  Grace takes precedence; the law never annulled grace.  “And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. (Galatians 3:17, NKJV).

  • That’s why the prophets could describe the Suffering Servant w/such accuracy (Isa 53, Micah 5).
  • That’s why the whole book of Hebrews makes the case for the gospel of grace from the Old Testament.  So does Paul in Romans and Galatians.  So do the gospel-writers.  
  • God wove the story of a coming Savior into every ritual, every holy day, every festival, every priestly garment, every sacrifice, every prophecy, every major story (like the Exodus, Parting the Red Sea, Clothing Adam and Eve with skins/sacrificial victims, The Substitutionary Sacrifice for Isaac, Jacob blessing Joseph’s Sons, Jonah in the belly of the great fish, The valley of dry bones… it’s endless).  

    The Old Testament drips with details on the coming Savior, and SPIRITUALLY MINDED MEN AND WOMEN GOT IT.  That’s why old Simeon and old Anna rejoiced when they met the baby Jesus.  Even pre-Jesus, they got it. Jesus presumed EVERYBODY should have gotten it.  It wasn’t obscure.  It wasn’t “tricksy.”  It wasn’t hidden.  The gospel of Jesus Christ lay in plain sight for all to see long before Mary started pushing.  Not with the clarity with which we can see it today, but with enough clarity for anyone to believe.  It has always been a perspicuous gospel, and that’s why Jesus nailed his new friends on the road to Emmaus.

4.  How about a few nuggets of the gospel from the Old Testament… the language patterns are Semitic, but the thoughts are identical with Jesus’, Paul’s, and the rest of the NT writers’: 
  • <<To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.>> In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. (Psalms 31:1, NKJV).
  • And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6, NKJV).
  • “O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. (Daniel 9:18, NKJV).
  • “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you– The sure mercies of David. (Isaiah 55:1-3, NKJV).
  • Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:14, NKJV).
  • Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. (Psalms 20:7, NKJV).
  • “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new [renewed] covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33, NKJV).  [Note: translate new as “renewed” says Walter Kaiser in Toward an Old Testament Theology. There was nothing new here; just a return to the pre-law, pre-Exodus covenant of grace, which existed from the Garden of Eden days.]
  • “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18, NKJV).
We believed in a Messiah who came before us.  They believed in a Messiah who came after them.  No difference.  Moral or religious obedience never saved anyone.  Just obedience to the command of the gospel:  BELIEVE ON the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.  
5.  There is and always has been one way to God:  by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Christ meaning the Messiah who would suffer, die, rise again, and return to reign).  I’m sure that’s more than you wanted to read, so I’ll stop now, except to suggest a couple of books:
The Messiah in the Old Testament (Walter Kaiser)
A Theology of the Old Testament (J. Barton Payne, one of my favorites)
The Promise-Plan of God (Walter Kaiser, just out, a must-read!!!).
And, don’t forget…
How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World, by yours truly.  Goes on sale in January, but I can make them available around Thanksgiving, just in time for all your Christmas shopping!!!!  


25 thoughts on “Salvation Before the Savior, part 2

  1. Bill…

    This is awesome… as well as solid “meat” theology. (smile) Every sentence is very refreshing, because you hold clear that Jesus is the “alpha and the omega,” which means (as just what you said), i.e., that he is the basis of salvation forwards-and-backwards in history.

    One good question many people pose is whether or not the Old Testament believer had actually had a conscious image of the Messiah as the savior (promised to deliver from the sins of the world). In other words, did King David — when penning Psalm 2 for example — actually understand that for which he was prophesying–i.e., that the glorious messianic king was, in fact, the paschal (passover) lamb for slaughter?

    This apparent dichotomy (by the way) is a stumbling block to the Jew even unto this day.

    Old testament characters such as Daniel did not understand the full-orb interpretations of his prophecy (Dan 12:8). Even Nicodemus was confused about the relationship between the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning the “new covenant” with the cicumcision of heart (washing), which Jesus termed “new birth” or born again. Peter indicates that many Old Testament prophets had no clear understanding of what they were describing in the Messiah, although such doctrine is clear to us in the church today (1 Pet 1:10-11). In a word, we are so fortunate to have such full revelation. How will any unbeliever today — having received such a liability of knowledge and revelation through evangelism, for example — be able to stand before the living God in final judgment? (See Hebrews 10:31)?

    In essence, living before the time of Christ was like living under a tutor (Gal 3:25), and your obligations were to receive by faith God’s grace provision (whether to eat manna or to “eat” the words of God). Your out”work”ing was your response. For example, believers in the Old Testament (like King David) sinned. The gracious provision of animal sacrifices enabled them to return to Covenant relationship with God. The offerings themselves could NOT automatically effect sipritual salvation (Heb 9), however, the sacrifices were sufficient for restoration of fellowship with God. Hence, it is difficult to say that these sacrifices had provided the Israelite believer any conscious prefigurement concept of Jesus dying on the cross for their sins (even though it was Christ’s sacrifice that was, in fact, the BASIS of their Old Testament salvation). Living under a tutor (Law), they did not have the full revelation of the Trinity, either, which yet provided ANOTHER stumbling block to the Jew. This is why Jesus died on the cross with a sign over his head, “Jesus, King of the Jews.”

    Bill–keep up the solid discussions–I hope I can provide edification for anyone willing to ask sincere questions about our faith.


  2. Thank you, Joe. Excellent comment. And, Maxgrace readers, please know that Joe is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and knows his stuff.

    Since you brought up 1 Pet 1:10,11, let me comment on that verse. Read it closely:

    As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. (1 Peter 1:10, 11, NAS95).

    What is certain from this verse?
    1. The OT prophets wrote of salvation thru Christ.
    2. They wrote of this through the “Spirit of Christ,” i.e., under the filling of the Holy Spirit.
    3. They wrote of his suffering on the Cross and of his subsequent resurrection (the glories that would follow).
    4. Peter summed up all of this in the word “grace.” “The Grace that should come to you…”
    5. They searched and inquired diligently over these things… but please note…
    6. Their search was not over the CONTENT of the gospel, because that was abundantly clear in the OT: that a Suffering Servant, the Messiah, would die for the sins of others (Isa 53), making an atonement, finishing the sacrificial system, and rise again as the mediator between God and humans, and that faith in him (trust, reliance, confiding upon) was the means of salvation.
    7. They searched over two things only: a) who this guy would be. That is, they kept watch for his coming… and b) when he would come. That’s it. The rest was clear to them.

    [See Kaiser’s discussion in The Uses of the OT in the New, pp. 18-23.]


  3. What about Enoch and Elijah? Did they know Christ? Is that why they were taken up to be with God? Did Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have faith in the coming Messiah?

    You have a very consistent treatment. But, I don’t know if it fits with all of the data. Enoch and Elijah seem to be the exception to the rule. They were taken up, but on what basis? Faith? Obedience? If faith, in whom? God, the Messiah, or both? If obedience, to what? God? The Law?

    It seems more accurate to say that before Christ came, there was the expectation of the Messiah, but it was not faith in the one who was coming that credited them as righteous. Instead, it was a commitment to God in faith and action, to live to please and honor him.

  4. For anyone interested, you can become a student of Dallas Theological Seminary “on-line.” Since I live in San Antonio, I was able to take most of my classes in-person (in Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas).

    Please see

    The classes are NOT inexpensive, however, there is no better investment in your “future” (temporal & eternal) than learning the word of God! I have actually pulled out notes from previous classes to answer various comments on Bill’s blog.

    BY THE WAY, Bill Giovanetti was my youth leader some 30 years ago, and it was from him that I developed my earnest interest and desire for the Word. So I am humbled to share God’s word with him and his MaxGrace fellowship. I almost try to make him proud of me!


  5. Thanks Bill. This is wonderful & has been very helpful to me.

    So, if I hear you correctly, God’s means of salvation has always been the Messiah even before the Messiah had been physically born. The spiritual effect of his existence was available to all who demonstrated faith; his physical birth being the ultimate manifestation of an already existing covenant by which all men could be reconciled to God. Therefore, a person could, before the Messiah was born exclaim, “My hope is in God alone (true repentance, belief, etc),” & enact the Messiah’s spiritual atonement upon themselves. In both the Original & New Testaments God has one mechanism for salvation: The Messiah; how God has presented the means has changed.
    Am I hearing you right?

  6. Bill,

    Thanks for your clear teaching that has allowed me to unravel some of the theological misconceptions of my youth. In my youth I had this idea that Christ work on the cross was Plan B. From the beginning of time, God’s intention of the Savior is clear. The sacrificial systems of the OT did not and could not forgive sin, they merely rolled it forward all the while with the hope of the Redemmer to come. I would guess the purpose was to paint a picture of the work of the coming Savior. What do you think? When Jesus was having the last Passover with His disciples, and He said “this cup is my blood”, the cup He was referring to was the cup of wine that represented the blood of the Passover lamb. I think they understood, at least they didn’t question it. I believe God through the Holy Spirit reveals thing to mankind in the season they are required. I think we understand with more clarity today some things that God has revealed. Perhaps the reverse is also true. Perhaps the revelation of God’s plan was made clearer in OT times in the season it was needed. Now with God’s revelation through the scriptures and the fact of the cross, we are no longer quite as in touch with OT revelation (though it is clearly there) and we can’t imagine how they understood absent all of the evidence we now enjoy. Nonetheless, we must take God at His word. “Christ died for sins, once for all (past and present).

  7. James…

    “What about Enoch and Elijah? Did they know Christ? Is that why they were taken up to be with God? Did Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have faith in the coming Messiah?”

    Yes, they did. Faith in the Seed of the Woman who pre-dates them all. That coming Person who would crush evil at its source. That Person who was illustrated by Abel’s sacrifice, and insulted by Cain’s. That Person who was illustrated by coats of skin (sacrifice) for Adam and Eve, and whose story was kept alive by oral transmission. That Person who was insulted by the Tower of Babel, and illustrated by Abraham’s ram when he offered his son Isaac–come to speak of it, the Person illustrated by the Father offering the Son… in a subsitutionary way. All of that was gathered by the people you mention, and more. Remember, Adam and Eve had personal communion with the Lord, and the memory of that was handed down in the pre-Abrahamic past.

    By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:4, 5, NKJV).


  8. Are you saying that they knew Christ or that they knew of a Christ that would come? In either case, your treatment argues that they had faith in Christ, even if he had not yet come, which is why they could be saved, correct?

  9. Sean… yes, I think that fairly sums up what I’m saying. Thanks for bringing up an excellent topic, and one I’m passionate about.

    James… I’m saying their faith was in God would would send a Savior… and even though he had not yet come, yes, thru faith in him who was to come they could be saved. I love Walter Kaiser on this subject, so check out some of his books. You’ll immediately fall in love with the guy.


  10. I think where I part ways, depending on how you respond to my previous question, is whether the Patriarchs knew and acknowledged the coming Messiah. Certainly from the Psalms and Prophets a case for the knowledge of the Messiah can be made. Certainly one can look at the Law and see illusions to the Messiah. But is there any evidence that people in the Pentateuch perceived and acknowledged a Messiah, or is it something that we deduce based on logical reasoning and assumptions? It seems to me that the Patriarchs did not recognize that a Messiah was coming. Perhaps from the later part of the Pentateuch, in Deuteronomy, a case may be made for Moses looking onward to a coming Messiah, but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? I do not see it.

    And what about people who are not part of the Old Testament heritage and before Christ? Without the Old Testament, how could they have placed faith in a coming Messiah?

    (Note that I firmly believe in Jesus as the only way to God. But I do not have it so nicely laid out theologically and all my questions have not been answered. I allow for it to remain mysterious as I want to allow Scripture to speak for itself and do not want to force my own preconceived notions upon it so much as I am able. If the text does show that the Patriarchs knew of the coming Messiah, then I can accept that, but I do not want to force the text to show it, which is why I am cautiously questioning your argument.)

  11. James…
    I share your belief in the mysterious elements of Scripture. Deut 29:29 tells us to not fill in the gaps, so I’m with you. It’s just that the OT language and mode of communication often blows right past our cultural lenses. There is so much detail, especially in the Pentateuch, about the coming Person (I hesitate to use the term Messiah about such an early date)… Check out Kaiser’s The Messiah in the Old Testament for a very readable, exposition of Old Testament texts on this topic. It will not only inform your theology, it will warm your heart. I appreciate your comments.

  12. The question I have is whether or not the “details” of the Pentateuch are descriptions about the coming Person or if they were simply later looked back upon and used as analogies for the Person who came.

    I think the Messiah was acknowledged and believed in, as is evidenced in the Psalms and Prophets, but in the Pentateuch, I don’t think the Messiah was hoped for. It seems to me that the information in the Pentateuch were later used as analogies for the Messiah. I have yet to find any evidence that the people in the Pentateuch perceived of, acknowledged, and hoped for the coming Messiah.

    And this is a rather moot point, since regardless of what the people really did know, if one has heard of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then when reading the Pentateuch, one would be able to read with illumined eyes and one’s faith would grow deeper.

    I should like to check out Kaiser’s treatment in the book you mentioned.

  13. Okay… Read Kaiser and see if you change your mind. I am against “reading back” into the Pentateuch any doctrine… those guys hoped for a coming person, and… “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. (Hebrews 11:24-26, NKJV).


  14. James…

    I admire your intellectual honesty, and I am endeared to your thirst for God’s word.

    As I mentioned in the previous blog of yesterday, the basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; however… the content of faith is different (because of progressive revelation of God to man).

    In other words, when Adam looked on the coats of skin with which God had clothed him and his wife, Adam did not see exactly/precisely the image of what the believer sees today looking back on the cross of Calvary. The difference is simply the progress of God’s revelation to mankind.

    Please note! This difference between what Adam saw and what we see today does NOT mean there is more than one way of salvation! On the contrary, I am just saying that through the progress of time, God has revealed himself progressively. Let me give an example. Today we now better understand the Trinity, which had not been an apparent, obvious, explicit, full-blown teaching or precept in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Just because this precept was not full-blown, explicit, obvious, and salient in the Old Testament does not mean that the Trinity did not exist; it only means that God progressively revealed Himself to mankind over time. If you deny that Messiah is God, you deny the Trinity–such a concept would have been alien to King Solomon, for example, in the Old Testament.

    I hope that this explanation is simple and meaningful.


  15. I like your description: “the basis of salvation . . .” I find it helpful, and I agree with it.

    But I do not see Adam looking upon the skins and even understanding it at the least as a forethought of the Person to come. When I read Genesis, it seems as though Adam takes it without any sort of realization or revelation of what Christians later came to identify.

    What I am wading through right now is the thought regarding the Patriarchs. Did they believe in the Messiah who was to come? I think not; the Old Testament bears no indication that the Patriarchs or the Hebrews in general hoped for.

    What we see in the New Testament are different analogies and typologies, where the Christians could look back at the Old Testament and refer to its contents and re-interpret it in light of Christ. But this interpretation was not likely to be how the Patriarchs in fact understood the events that took place. Even the term, “messiah,” is used only in connection with the priest-hood in the Pentateuch, and it isn’t until much later that it began to progress past this connection, which is to say that the Patriarchs would not have understood of this concept of a Person who was to come to save them from their sins. This idea developed later; we cannot say that the Patriarchs believed in Christ.

    If we cannot say that the Patriarchs believed in a forthcoming Messiah, then we have to determine what the content of their faith was and why God credited it to them as righteousness. And I am still in the process of working through this question: what was the content of the faith of the Patriarch? Of Moses? Of Enoch? It seems to me that the understanding of faith and righteousness in the Old Testament is fundamentally different than the New Testament and my western understanding, which is why it seems to be quite elusive to me.

  16. James…

    I love your thinking/processing, but I must take issue on two crucial points.

    1. You say, “What we see in the New Testament are different analogies and typologies, where the Christians could look back at the Old Testament and refer to its contents and re-interpret it in light of Christ.” In my mind, this would be eisegesis of the worst sort. The NT writers never took Scripture out of context. Plus, add the following observation as well…

    2. You say, “It seems to me that the understanding of faith and righteousness in the Old Testament is fundamentally different than the New Testament and my western understanding, which is why it seems to be quite elusive to me.” If that were the case, then the NT writers’ arguments would have fallen on deaf ears. Why make a case for Christ from the OT if they were only distorting the OT to make it? No Jew would have listened. The Pharisees and other sects would have had a field day. What made the NT so powerful was that it precisely echoed the sentiment of the OT, and of the author’s original intent, and the Jews had no answer for it… other than to kill the messengers. Furthermore, the understanding of faith and righteousness in the OT is the same as in the NT and neither is western. Remember, the prevailing culture was still Semitic, so that argument is a bit misplaced–you’d have to have the same argument for the NT. Both testaments were written (predominantly) into the same milieu.

    And yes, the Patriarchs awaited the Savior. Doesn’t Jesus explicitly affirm this? “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56, NKJV). We radically underestimate the knowledge of OT saints. Scripture has told us that they “got it.”

    These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NKJV).


  17. Consider Job when he said:
    “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God.” (Job 16:19-20)

  18. Eisogesis was not a taboo. Paul could quote Targums and practice Midrash Pesher, and have different understandings of Old Testament texts without, apparently, violating his conscience. It’s not a problem for me to say that there appears to be some eisogesis going on by the authors of the New Testament. As far as the understanding of righteousness, words and their meanings evolve. How the word was used by Moses was not necessarily how it was used by Jesus. Social factors likely changed the understanding of righteousness, so that the term changed during the inter-testamental period. My point is specifically that the Old Testament evidence that the Hebrews as early as the Patriarchs “got it” is minimal, if there is any at all.

    Given Jesus’ words about Abraham, I would like to study it and determine if Jesus is looking back and drawing some sort of analogy from Scripture or from extra-biblical literature, or if he was actually referring to some sort of evidence from the Pentateuch that demonstrates Abraham’s acknowledgement of the coming Messiah.

  19. Bill…

    I have an honest, sincere question.

    Do you think that the believers of the Old Testament were looking forward to the fulfillment of promises of God’s Kingdom on Earth (i.e. fulfillment of the Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants)…?

    In other words, could they have been hoping for national deliverance by the Promised Seed (first mentioned in the Garden of Eden), i.e., Son of David, and — in this sense — they “got it”…? In other words, did they view “deliverance” through the lens of the covenants…?

    One reason I ask, is because the suffering servant and majestic son of David did not appear as “one-and-the-same” in the Hebrew Bible (or at least the two concepts did not appear coincidental). At this time, I am teaching Revelation to a men’s group, and the beast & false prophet (Rev 13) appear to be the answer of the majestic son of David and suffering servant, i.e., “Messiah” is two respective persons in one advent (and not one person in two advents). This beast & false prophet will herald the Kingdom of God, and their covenant with Israel will be the first testament to that fulfillment.

    In other words, the Jewish expectation of Messiah did not include both concepts (majestic son of David and suffering servant) as coincidental, which no doubt contributed to the Jewish national leadership confusion of understanding Jesus in his first advent.

    I do not mean to bring the Book of Revelation to this discussion, but the idea of Messiah (in the Hebrew Bible) is intrinsic to the fulfillment of the Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants, which matter so much to the Old Testament idea of deliverance. It is the covenants that formed the lens.


  20. Another book by Kaiser which is an easier read is titled “The Christian and Old Testament”. It’s a fantastic book and a much easier read than some of his other works.

    I can’t wait to read his latest that you recommended.

    Thanks so much for this blog!

  21. OK, time for a question from a layman. And I am not trying to be a heretic or anything so everyone needs to be nice. The OT says “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Specifically, Abraham believed promises God made to Abraham — and these initial promises in the life of Abraham did not seem to be related to a future savior unless I am missing something (which is entirely possible). So, based on my understanding to date, I had assumed that it was confidence in God — putting one’s faith in God — that saved our early OT brothers. It seems to me that God applied the benefits of the cross to Abraham based on Abraham’s trust in God. So even though Abraham was not specifically banking on a future savior, God was still free to apply the work of Christ to Abraham because Abraham believed God. So salvation has always been a matter of putting one’s faith in God. As revelation progressed (think the sacrificial system of the law), salvation was still granted because people believed God and acted on what He told them to do (presumably, even if they didn’t grasp that the animal sacrifices were only a type of a future event). So even if the people did not see the lamb as a picture of a God-Man savior to come, the fact that they believed God when he said “offer this sacrifice and I will forgive your sins” allowed God to apply the benefits of the cross. So I have seen salvation as based on what God knew Jesus would do at a point in history, but I did not see a requirement that people put their trust in a savior to come — at least, not until it became much more clear (think Isaiah 53). Now, after Jesus came and died and rose again it is very clear that people need to believe in who He was and what He did in order to receive the forgiveness that flows from the work Jesus performed on the cross. So I am not saying that some kind of “generalized” faith is God cuts the mustard today. I am just saying that in the older parts of the OT — and specifcially, in the life of Abraham — it seems to me that God saved Abraham based on the simple fact that Abraham trusted Him. And that trust does not seem to be related to a coming savior at the time that God “credited it to him as righteousness.” I realize that Abraham’s understanding of God increased over time, and that the offering of Issac was a picture of the cross, but the “crediting” thing happened when God simply told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. And when Moses held up the bronze statue of a snake, and whoever looked at it lived — well, the faith seemed to be in the looking, not in the understanding of what the snake symbolized. The only people who looked were the people who believed God. But the act of looking at the statue saved their lives. I think it also saved their souls, because the key point was they said to themselves, “OK, whatever God says, I believe Him. If he says to go look at the snake and I will be saved, I trust Him and I am going to go look.” They looked, and lived. Those who did not trust in what God said puffed up and croaked. So it looks to me like God was able to apply the cross on the basis of faith, even if people were in a complete fog about a future savior. Am I wrong here? Thanks for being nice.

  22. Excellent points… but might I suggest you factor in this:
    Is it possible that we underestimate how much the patriarchs understood of the gospel. No, they did not have as clear a view as we did. No, they could not call on Jesus, they called on the name of the Lord (Yahweh Elohim).
    But remember the antecedents:
    1. Coats of skins in the Garden of Eden–the first sacrifice: God would supply a lamb.
    2. The promised Seed in Gen 3:15 who would crush evil after being crushed himself
    3. Personal instruction face to face with the Lord (in the Garden)
    4. An oral tradition that would keep these truths alive
    5. Melchizedek
    6. The God would dwell in the tents of Shem (after the Flood), i.e., that God’s presence would be mediated through the Semitic race… etc.
    The truth-basis is far more than we usually allow for. There were multitudes of indicator, and spiritually minded people, like Enoch, walked with God and got it.
    In Abraham’s case, he believed in the Lord (Gen 15:6) after God issued the very rich promise of a) a Seed — always to be connected with Gen 3:15… b) and that he (Abraham) would be the touchstone of blessing for all who associated with him — the provisional “federal head” of the blessings of God. And don’t forget the promise God made to him: I will be your exceedingly great reward. You get me, said God.
    There’s a richness and fulness and depth we often gloss over in the OT, even in the oldest parts of the OT, about the coming Person of Promise. A growing body of truth about the Savior.
    To paraphrase a saying… Everything I needed to know, I learned in Genesis.
    I really encourage you to read Walter Kaiser’s stuff… I can lend you a book or two.

  23. Joe…
    Check this out: “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26, NKJV).
    Whether or not current Jewish religion understood it, it was revealed. It was revealed well enough to be understood. It was revealed well enough for Jesus to have rebuked those who didn’t get it–their ignorance was culpable ignorance… they should have never bifurcated the Suffering Servant and the Glorious King… didn’t Gen 3:15 anticipate both in the one Seed of the Woman? Shouldn’t that have been evidence enough? The growing data were about a singular person of promise.

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