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I have heard that we can only get to heaven through Jesus.  If this is true, then how were the people before Him saved? 

When we read the Bible, we see that its purpose is redemption and transformation; to show us the way to salvation and to transform us more and more into the true image and likeness of Christ Jesus in righteousness and holiness; to make us more Christlike. 

In the Bible, we, also, see progressive revelation.  An example of progressive revelation is found in (Isaiah 53:4-5) and (Matthew 8:14-17).  In Old Testament times, and even today under Judaism, it was believed that what was written in (Isaiah 53:4-5) was speaking of the Jewish nation.  We were to find out later, however, it was speaking of Christ Jesus.1

Under the Old Covenant, animal sacrifice was practiced for sin; in fact it was required by God. The people never really understood its true purpose however; they thought they did, but they really didn't.  We know now what its true purpose was; it is spoken of in (Hebrews 10:1-4).  The only thing that can cleanse us from the guilt of sin is the shed blood of Christ Jesus on Calvary; when sin was judged by God.The shedding of animal blood is not able to.This being so, then how were people before Christ Jesus saved?"  The answer is faith in God; faith in the one true and eternal God Jehovah4 and the atoning work of Christ Jesus on Calvary.5

When people of faith in the one true and eternal God Jehovah died prior to Jesus, they were held captive in the underworld (Hades), in an area known as Abraham's Bosom or Paradise.They were held captive awaiting atonement of their sin debt.

Following His crucifixion, and prior to His resurrection, Christ Jesus descended to Abraham's Bosom (Paradise) to proclaim victory over sin and death as the sacrificial Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.7

When He ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection, Christ Jesus took these Old Testament saints, who were held captive in Abraham's Bosom, to heaven with Him.Paradise is now in heaven.9

 

Bible References:

1 (Matthew 8:14-17)

2 (Hebrews 10:5-12)

3 (Hebrews 10:4)

4 (James 2:23; Hebrews 11:13)

5 (John 1:29)

6 (Luke 16:19-26)

7 (Ephesians 4:9; 1 Peter 4:6; John 1:29)

8 (Ephesians 4:8)

9 (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)

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