SALVATION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT



Author: David R. Bethea


 In this study I would like to make clear that before this present age of grace which we live in today, salvation was not something man had to gain.  It was something God had promised since the fall of man - Genesis 3:15.


 Another point, which we will not spend much time on, is that for the most part, when Salvation” is spoken of in the Old Testament it is usually referring to a physical salvation rather than a spiritual salvation.  By a spiritual salvation I am referring to the salvation of our soul from the penalty of sin which is death.  This is most often how we speak of salvation today but this is not true of the Old Testament.  See the following verses for examples of physical salvation - Deuteronomy 33:27-29;  II Samuel 22:3,4; and Luke 1:68-75.  The reason the Old Testament speaks mostly of physical salvation is because most of God's dealings with Israel (his covenants and promises) were physical and included physical blessings.  By the way, Ephesians 1:3 says that we today are blessed with "Spiritual Blessings".


 When we talk of spiritual salvation in the Old Testament, especially when we speak of individuals of the Nation of Israel, keep this point in mind;


 ISRAEL NEVER HAD TO GET SAVED, THEY SIMPLY HAD TO KEEP FROM BEING CUT OFF!


 HERE IS WHERE OUR STUDY BEGINS:


 Romans 9:3-5  Informs us that the Old Testament covenants belonged to ISRAEL.


"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:  Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the COVENANTS, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the PROMISES;  Whose are the fathers, of whom Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."


 We Gentiles are reminded in Ephesians 2:11,12 that those Old Testament covenants did NOT belong to us.


"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the COVENANTS OF PROMISE, having NO hope, and without God in the world."


 For the sake of understanding the concept of being "Cut Off” lets go back to the time before God created the nation of Israel.  God gave to Noah a Covenant in Genesis 9:9-17.  As God has chose to do when he gives to man a covenant (meaning; a promise), he gives with the promise a sign (or token) of the covenant.  The covenant given to Noah and to all flesh upon the earth is stated in Genesis 9:11


"And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be CUT OFF any more by WATERS of a flood; neither shall there any more be a FLOOD to destroy the earth"


 The sign of this covenant was God's bow in the sky.  God promised never to cut off the people of the earth with a flood of water again, but you do not need to study the Bible long before you understand that God will Cut Off men from the earth again only the next time it will be with fire. (see  II Thessalonians 1:7-9 and  II Peter 3:5-10).


 The period of time between the flood and Babel was a time that is described in Romans 1:19-23  when mankind turned away from God.  The nations who came into existence since the flood rebelled against God and God cut them off from him - see Romans 1:24,26,28.  After God cut off the nations in Genesis 11, he chose out one man in Genesis 12.


 Abraham became God's man and the Nation of Israel that God created through him became God's People (Genesis 17:8). In Genesis 17:1-8  God restates his covenant with Abraham and in  Genesis 17:9-14 gives Abraham the sign of the covenant: circumcision.  Along with this sign the seed of Abraham is given a very strong warning to keep the sign of the covenant (Circumcision) or they would be CUT OFF. Therefore those who were born of Abraham's seed (the Jews) were born into this covenant relationship with God which was to be an Everlasting position if they did not get cut off.


 Through Moses (some 430 years later) God gave unto His People (The Nation of Israel) the law.  The law was NOT given so that they could become his people, but so that His people would be kept from the sins that caused the Gentiles to be cut off. These laws would make Israel a peculiar people and a Holy Nation unto God.


NOTE: The Law was divided in 3 categories:

  MORAL law, CIVIL law, and CEREMONIAL law.


 The 10 Commandments (The Moral Law) can be divided

 into 2 categories  (see Matthew 22:36-40):

 COMMANDS 1-4   Proper Worship Towards God

 COMMANDS 5-10  Responsibility Towards Man


 God gave these Laws unto His People with the promise that if they would obey them He would bless them, but if they would not obey them He would curse them.  The Sabbath was the sign of this covenant and again there was a warning that if an individual did not keep this sign they would be CUT OFF from God's people - Numbers 9:13


 Throughout the Law there are warnings given to the individual Jew that if he rebelled against God's Law his soul would be Cut Off from God.  (see:  Leviticus 17:10;  18:24-29;  19:8;  22:3; 23:29;  Numbers  9:13;  15:30,31;  19:13,20)


 Israel was promised Life through God's Covenant with Abraham.  Galatians 3:21 states plainly that the Law could never give life.  Galatians 3:11 teaches that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God because the Old Testament states:  "THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH".  However there is a reminder in  Galatians 3:12 that the Law was another system altogether and that it was given for another reason.  The Law was a system of works given for the reason of blessing or condemnation.  Any persons of the Nation of Israel who kept the Law would continue to have life.  This is what is meant by:


"THE MAN THAT DOETH THEM SHALL LIVE IN THEM"


 This statement is repeated over and over again in the Old Testament.  It is a quotation from Leviticus 18:5, and Leviticus 18:24-29 explains it.  In keeping the law Israel would be kept from the sins that caused the Gentiles to be cut off from God, but if they failed to keep the law they to would be CUT OFF!  Therefore, "the man that doeth them shall live in them".


 This quotation is also found in Ezekiel 20:11.  Here Israel is being shown (Ezekiel 20:11-13) how they rebelled in the wilderness, they rebelled once in the promised land, and how God will purge out the rebels in his judgement - Ezekiel 20:33-38  (descriptive of the tribulation). Sometime later, read all of Ezekiel 14 and see how God warns the Individual Jew how that his rebellion would result in God cutting him off from God's people Israel.


 Ezekiel 18  explains in detail, that if an individual of the nation of Israel kept the law, God would not hold his sins against him and that he would have life.  If a person did not keep the law, God would hold him accountable for his sins and; "THE SOUL THAT SINNETH, IT SHALL DIE".  This passage also teaches that each person of the nation of Israel stands individually before God.  Finally, God warns Israel that judgement is determined upon the condition of the individual at the time of death.


If He Died in Sin, He is Cut Off (Death)

If He Died in Righteousness, He shall gain Life.

If He Died a Repentant Sinner, He shall Live.

If He lived Righteously all his life but near the end

of his life he turned from God, He is Cut Off (Dead)


 The same thing is taught in Ezekiel 33:11-20. Compare;  Ezekiel 18:30-32  and  Ezekiel 33:11  with Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:6,7; and  Acts 3:19.  This is what the call of Israel to REPENTANCE is all about in the ministries of John the Baptist, Christ, and the 12 Apostles  (even at Pentecost)


 This is why the tone of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is one of keeping the Law and enduring unto the end to be saved (not to get saved).  This is what  Matthew 1:21 means when it says:


“ ...THOU SHALT CALL HIS NAME JESUS: FOR HE SHALL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS".


This is why Christ says in  Matthew 9:13


"... I AM NOT COME TO CALL THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT SINNERS TO REPENTANCE".


 This is what Luke is referring to in the account of Zacchaus in  Luke 19:1-10  (read it) and concluded in verse 10


"FOR THE SON OF MAN IS COME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST”


 Remember the "Lost" he was seeking, according to  Matthew 15:24 was the "LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL".  Individual Jews in Israel were his sheep that have wondered away and he was gathering them back into the fold.


 Christ was warning in parables, such as in Matthew 25:1-13 not to let your light go out just before the bridegroom comes. In other parables he warns not to give up looking for the Lord to come because if you do (speaking to Israel) you will be appointed a portion with the unbeliever - see Matthew 24:48-51.  This is also why "fruit" is required throughout the Gospels, in order to be saved from the judgement to come  - see Matthew 7:19.


 The People of Israel had wondered away from God and were obeying for doctrine the traditions of men.  Messiah was here. Judgement was about to fall and that is not the time to be found in rebellion.  Matthew 3:8-11 John the Baptist preaches


"BRING FORTH THEREFORE FRUITS MEET FOR REPENTANCE: And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  AND NOW ALSO THE AXE IS LAID UNTO THE ROOT OF THE TREES:  Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is HEWN DOWN, and CAST INTO THE FIRE.”


 The Everlasting Life that was promised will come about in the Everlasting Kingdom that is being pronounced  "At Hand!”


 Beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist, God was calling out the believing Remnant of Israel.  Those who would believe the message that the long promised Kingdom was at hand, were required to be water baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and look for their Messiah who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit which was promised to bring into their soul a New Birth and Everlasting Life – in the Kingdom.  All of this was promised to Israel in the Old Testament.


 I need to go one step further in this study before we stop. The point of all the above has been to convey the concept Israel had of Salvation from the Old Testament and during the life and ministry of Christ.  Israel didn't have to GET SAVED, they just had to keep from being CUT OFF as individuals form the promises made unto their fathers. However something happened that changed everything in the time in which we live. God did something that was never prophesied to happen and was kept a secret in himself since the foundation of the world.


 There came a time in history that God CUT OFF the Nation of Israel from their covenant relationship with him.  Romans 11  tells us that this Cutting Off of Israel was only partial and temporary "UNTIL THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES BE COME IN" - Romans 11:25.


 God had CUT OFF the Gentiles long ago  (Genesis 11)  and now God has CUT OFF the Jews.  Because of this, TODAY, everyone needs to GET SAVED.  Romans 11:32 tells why God has cut off the Jews:


"FOR GOD HATH CONCLUDED THEM ALL IN UNBELIEF,

THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY UPON ALL".


This is what is meant in  Romans 3:23  when we are told


"FOR ALL HAVE SINNED  (Both Jew and Gentile),

AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD".


 Since today all men are lost, cut off, and condemned,  God in His Grace pronounces:


“TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION".


 According to  Romans 3:24  God's message of salvation today is that We sinners can be


"JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS".


This is what “THE WORD” and “MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION” in the dispensation of the grace of God is all about – see  II Corinthians 5:18,19;  Romans 5:10;  Ephesians 2:14-16.