My Sunday School days yielded fond memories. I learned so much about the Bible. The Bible stories told were exciting to me as a little boy. My classmates asked questions (as did I) but for the most part, we just loved the stories.
As an adult looking backwards, I find it fascinating to think about the questions that we asked as children. And one of them is,
“How could the Old Testament saints go to heaven if you have to believe in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and He didn’t even live yet?”
The answer for children: “They were saved by looking forward to the cross; we are saved by looking back to the cross.”
The explanation usually accompanied the story of Moses and the brazen serpent and how it tied into John 3:16.
For a child, that answer was exhilarating. Trying to imagine faith in something prophesied was mind tingling. But the answer never fully satisfied me. As an adult, I can identify what only a child could sense.
- The Jews did not see their Messiah suffering in crucifixion. How could they look forward to something saving them they didn’t know what happen?
- Christ’s own disciples had to be instructed as to His work according to the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:27)
- Israel was not looking for a cross; they were looking for a Kingdom (Acts 1:6). How could they be saved when they were looking to become a ruling nation?
- Their hope in a coming kingdom was an exercise of faith. That is why the statement, “looking forward to the cross” appears true from our perspective.It is no wonder when they died, they did not go to heaven! They went to a place of rest.
The innocence of a child defects the Sunday School answer is too simplistic. And it is that same innocence that senses faith is the key. What a powerful book the Bible is for its stories to both awe a child’s faith and inspire their mind!