“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15, ESV)
There have been plenty of times when I wished I could somehow set the clock back and fix something that was broken. Sometimes we can try to fix things that are broken, but on other occasions the items are so destroyed that there is no way other than turning back time. Of course, this is impossible. Yet in the area of saving man from sin, God has provided a way.
The author of Hebrews has gone to great lengths to show that Jesus as great high priest and His atoning sacrifice is the only way to salvation. However, one of the questions that the Jewish readers might have asked regarding this is, “What about those of genuine faith before Christ?” What about the saints, who were under the Old Covenant? Did not the sacrifices under the Mosaic law redeem the person? Yet the author has shown that the Old Covenant was insufficient to truly deal with the problem of sin and only Christ’s atoning sacrifice was sufficient.
In this verse, the author answers this question. First, we must understand that there were Old Testament saints who were justified by faith. In Exodus we read of Abraham, “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6, KJV 1900) The New Testament writers referred to Abraham’s faith to show that justification was by faith alone (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; James 2:23). So, we conclude that the Old Testament saints were justified by true faith alone.
In this verse, the author tells us that Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant and that it is by His death that true believers are redeemed. Now, while we basically know this, we see that the author tells his Jewish readers that the death of Christ, not only redeemed those who would believe, but also those who had genuine faith before Christ. He states that Christ’s death redeemed the Old Testament saints from the transgressions they committed before the initiation of the New Covenant.
We must be reminded that the Tabernacle, priestly duties, and the sacrifices, pointed to Christ and His redemption. The Old Testament saints, just like us were saved based on Christ’s atonement alone. This is because His sacrifice is once for all. That is all people throughout time.
An interesting thing is that God and His sovereign decrees, which includes Christ’s atonement, were all established in eternity. Since eternity means no beginning and no end, and God’s sovereign decrees are always perfectly assured (in other words, they are a done deal), in some way the Old Testament saints became partakers immediately when they truly believed God.
Yet, we have been privileged to have been born in the era of the New Covenant. This has made it much easier in my opinion to understand. This is because we have the New Testament revelation. Yet, there are still many who, even with churches on nearly every corner, easy access to Bibles, preachers, and evangelists, and who have heard the gospel over and over, refuse to believe. We are entering the Advent Season. This is a perfect time to share the good news of the New Covenant promises. Consider how you might share the good news with others.