The relationship between God and Humanity is a story of faith. From Exodus through Malachi, the saints lived by faith (Hebrews 11).
The reader of Scripture knows the New Testament is a continuation of the Faith story. But the Bible reader cannot help but note a peculiar change in the narrative as soon as he/she crosses over into the New Testament.
Why is that? What is that change being sensed by the reader?
- Old Testament saints could not obtain Heaven until after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- The change is explained by no one less than Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ claimed that the Old testament era of the Law and prophets ended with John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). John’s personal testimony is that the saints before Christ’s time did not have a familial relationship, but a friendly one.
The Old Testament saints were friends of God, not family!
In John 3:27-29, John admits to being the friend of the Bridegroom. We know the groom to be Jesus and learn the Church of the New Testament is the Bride. Old Testament saints, in relation to Jesus, are friends to the Body of Christ.
This is the continuation of the Eden-type relationship. Even though the nation of Israel is described by terms which indicate a husband-wife relationship with God the Father, the relationship obviously was not yet consummated by the time of Christ.
The context of Jesus’ declaration about John the Baptist should be noted; namely, His teaching on Hell.
Luke 16 is the classic passage on the subject. It is the same passage that John is said to be the end of the legal era. Jesus describes a rich man who found himself in a place of torment. He then contrasts the rich man with a poor righteous man carried away by God’s angels.
Where did the angels carry Lazarus? NOT to Heaven!
The Old testament righteous were carried to a place of rest, said to be visible by those in the place of torment. The place was called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:23).
Old Testament saints could not obtain Heaven until after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This distinguishes the Bible’s faith story. In the Old Testament, those who lived by faith departed from this earth and entered its heart (Matthew 12:40). They waited for deliverance by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:7-10).
Faith in the Old Testament was necessary for their resurrection. In contrast, the New Testament saint passes from this life immediately into Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Were the Old Testament saints “saved” by looking forward to the cross? That question will be answered in the next post.