We know that Jesus is the only way to salvation, both for Old Testament and New Testament. Although, the Old Testament is the history of Jews. They were saved by putting their faith in a coming Messiah (Jesus); not by observing the Law. We know that God revealed Himself by general revelation. Although, general revelation allows people to know that God exist, not that they need to be saved and that a Messiah is coming. Then, how could Gentiles be saved, if they did not have access to this message of a coming Messiah and did not have Jewish prophet telling about it? Ex: Was a "normal Philistine family" already doomed from birth, because it was normal for them to worship Baal and Dagon, and were not told about a coming Messiah or their need to be saved?
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Now this is a very good question, the answer is pretty simple. They are simply saved by Faith: 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been [l]thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16 Now what this means is that the Old Testament Saints were saved through the death of Christ Jesus and not through the sacrificial system of the Old Law [Hebrews 10:4; 11:39-40]. We are told that the sacrificial system is a foreshadowing and functions more as a demonstration of faith [Hebrews 9:1-28]. However, as you have astutely pointed out this leaves out the other races of humanity, but I don't see this to be the case. We find in Romans that Paul notes that the Gentiles are condemned by the imperfect knowledge that they do have [Romans 2:14-16], it stands to reason that they can also be saved in a similar manner. Further, there are many Old Testament instances of explicit divine favour on Gentile nations: Melchizedek (who is not a Jew) is a Priest of the LORD [Genesis 14:18-20] and in this context explicitly YAHWEH, also there is the case of Balaam [Numbers 22] who clearly has the knowledge of God and unlike Moses has no need to ask God's name [Numbers 23:3], also let us not forget Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 4] and perhaps the greatest example is the Wise Men who were lead to Jesus by a non-Biblical prophecy [Matthew 2:1-2]. Also, as Amos points out, it is arrogant to assume that God only worked in Jewish history, [Amos 9:7]. Not to mention that Jesus Himself notes that we ought not discount anyone from Salvation or presume salvation [Matthew 7:21-23]. In addition, Scripture teaches that we are judged according to the knowledge that we are given, God doesn't punish you for what you cannot be held responsible [Luke 12:47-48]. Lastly, we ought never forget the character of the God we serve "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." [2 Peter 3:9]. Job is definitely not a Jew and neither are any of his friends yet they know the LORD [Job 1:1; 2:11] so I say do not presume that the Jews had exclusive access to God. In conclusion, all peoples, whether Jew, reached, unreached, Gentile or anything else are saved by faith in that which God has allotted to them. A child can be saved yet not have a doctrinally sound knowledge of the trinity. Can he not? So how much more an adult with a child like understanding of God?
In my humble view, the reason why God raised up Israel as a nation was not that they could become an exclusive and proud nation totally devoid of contact with the rest of the world. God wanted a peaople that He could use to reach other nations. The gentiles were going to be saved in exactly the same way that Jews were saved - by faith in Jesus. The Old Testament is full of stories, parables and illustrations about how God saves by faith. There is no other way. Whether it was prior to the death of Jesus on the cross or after the method is still the same. Christians have generally believed that Jews had a different kind of faith from ours and God saved them differently. The answer is a big NO. God has never changed the way He deals with humanity. God never changes. Heb4:2 We have heard the same Good News (Gospel) that your ancestors heard. But the message didn't help those who heard it in the past because they didn't believe. This verse is telling me that the same gospel that was preached to the Jews is the same as what is preached on our pulpits everyday. I am slo reminded of the parable of Jesus as the wedding banquet. There was only one standard required of those attending - to be clad in the wedding garment. It did not matter whether you were Jew or Gentile, just accept the wedding garment and you are in (saved). The question is how then did God reach the Gentiles? The nation of Israel had the Books of the Law and the Prophets and a system that was set up by God Himself. Mat23:15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. The Jewish religion it would appear had been set up to evangelize as well. Of course they were not known very much for evangelism, but this was one of their principal mission. Instead of them meeting every sabbath to learn and then go out and teach/ evangelize during the week, they became inward focused and God left them as a corporate body. We christians of today have taken over that role of Israel. We evangelize so that Gentiles (unbelievers) may hear the word and join Him in the fold. Remember that Jesus said He had other sheep outside the fold? These are the sheep that we must help Him to bring them in. In the Old Testament times the objective was to make the Hebrews successful and attractive to the nations around them. They would of course see the success and desire to be join them. The multitude that joined the Hebrews when they left Egypt are an example, they witnessed the power of God and were converted. The Ethiopian Eunuch is a great story to recall on this. Ask yourself the question, how did he get hold of the literature that he was reading, why was he in Jerusalem in the first place. In my view this gentlemen had been given this literature by Jews who understood their mission. Of course he did not understand but he was atracted to this religion just as God had designed and he came. The rest is history. In short therefore the answer is Gentiles were saved in exactly the same way that you and me are saved today. The same way that Adam and Eve were saved, through accepting the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
In the Old testament, Believers served God through faith. They believed and through obedience their sisns were forgiven. Regarding the Gentiles they accepted God (YHVH) because of their association wth the Israelites----- for example Ruth who came to know God through her mother-in-lw Noami. Abraham was a Gentile but when God called him (spoke directly to him), he obeyed because he knew God through Noach his great grand father. Again God spoke through chosen people like Naaman's wife servant through whom Naaman starterd woshipping the God of Israel.
To me the account of Jonah is a simple proof that Gentiles could become believers. It is also a resounding example of the grace of God in the Old Testament. The Jewish people were not known for their evangelism and Jonah is a prime example of that. He vehemently rejected God's call directing him to the people of Nineveh. Jonah rejected, initially, God's call to extend His grace and salvation to these--Jonah and Israel's enemies. He didn't understand why God would put forth an invitation for them to repent. We do know that our God does not desire "anyone" to perish. 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV): 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. Jonah's reluctance did not change the focus of God's grace to the people of Nineveh. Jonah was never a willing vessel of God's grace even after he had delivered the message Nineveh needed to hear. In short, we see God's grace extended and we also see the repentance of 120,000, all of whom were Gentiles during the Old Testament period of time. While we know this is a different dispensation from the age of grace, our God never changes--He has always been a God of grace and always will be because He never changes: "He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
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