In the Old Testament, a priest had to offer sacrifices for the people, but we know that no one is saved by the sacrifice of bulls and goats. How then were these Old Testament saints saved?
They were saved by faith in the promises of God, just as we are. We find this truth affirmed in the New Testament: “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend” (James 2:23; see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6). The litany of Old Testament saints in Hebrews 11 reminds us again and again that they were saved by faith. By faith, Abel was commended as righteous; by faith, Enoch was commended as one who pleased God; and by faith, Noah became an heir of righteousness. Sarah, Rahab, Gideon, and Moses were all saved by faith. The chapter ends this stirring roll call of Old Testament heroes by saying, “These were all commended for their faith” (v. 39).
Old Testament saints believed that God would fulfill His promise to send a Savior. They believed in God’s promise to provide a way for them to dwell with Him forever. Today, we are saved through faith that God has fulfilled His promise to send a Savior. We trust in the person and work of Jesus, who made the final sacrifice for our sins: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).