How did people get “saved” in the Old Testament?
The same way as in the New Testament, by faith in God. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham was saved because he had faith in God.
Romans 4:2-10, 16 says, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? ’Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’. Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works;
Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!…Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the Law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.”
King David didn’t see forgiveness coming by his own works or even by sacrificing animals if his heart wasn’t right before God. Psalm 51 is David’s repentant prayer to God after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Psalm 51: 16,17 says, “You do not desire a sacrifice or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalm 51:7 says, “Purify me from my sins and I will be clean, wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”
Hebrews 11:13-16 says, “All these people (the Old Testament believers) were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners an strangers on earth….Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11 is the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’…and it’s all Old Testament believers.
All of the Old Testament sacrifices, rituals, etc., pointed toward the ultimate sacrifice that was to come….the Messiah Jesus. That is what these Old Testament believers were looking forward to. And that is why God counted their faith as righteousness.
The cross is the center point of history. Those of us who died any time after Jesus was resurrected look back to the cross for our salvation (Romans 10:9,10). Those who died before His resurrection, look forward to the Messiah and His death, burial and resurrection (Isaiah 53).
For His Kingdom,