by Matt Slick
Yes, Jesus died for the sins of the people who lived before he was crucified. If he did not, then none of the Old Testament saints could be saved and go to heaven. 1 Peter 2:24 says that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross. This means that he bore our sins even though we were in the distant future compared to the time of his crucifixion. If he can bear the sins of people hundreds of years after him, why can't he also bear the sins of people hundreds of years before him? Of course, he can.
Furthermore, we know from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, that the shedding of blood is what brings the forgiveness of sins.
- Leviticus 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement."
- Hebrews 9:22, "And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."
It is the same way for both groups of people before and after Jesus' crucifixion. Furthermore, we know that the Old Testament saints were justified the same way that we are, by faith.
- Romans 4:3, "For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
- Romans 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness."
The Old Testament saints looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and they participated in the sacrificial system that God gave to Israel. Though they did not have a complete understanding of who the Messiah was or that he was to be God in flesh (John 1:1, 14 Colossians 2:9), they did trust God and sought to obey him with a revelation he had provided for them via the sacrifice of animals. However, we know from the New Testament in Hebrews 10:4 that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away our sins. Only the blood of Christ does that. So, if anyone is to be forgiven, it has to be through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Therefore, all of the Old Testament saints who are saved, will have to be saved by the same sacrifice of Christ on the cross that saves us. He bore their sins as well as ours.