In Hebrews chapter 11 we have a list of many “Old Testament saints” who lived by FAITH. A number of them were NOT Israelites; in fact, the first three mentioned lived BEFORE the nation of Israel was even born. Here are excerpts from verses 4-7: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that HE WAS RIGHTEOUS…By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death…By faith Noah…prepared an ark for the saving of his household…and became heir of THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS ACCORDING TO FAITH.”

These three men were all “JUSTIFIED by faith”; in other words, they were “included in the salvation plan of God.” The next one mentioned is Abraham (see verses 8-10) who was also “justified by faith” as we see in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for RIGHTEOUSNESS” (see also Romans 4:1-3). Abraham was actually a Gentile at this time (though he later became the father of the Hebrew nation). Later, in Hebrews 11:31, we read “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she received the spies with peace.” Rahab was a Gentile living in Jericho at the time that she believed God’s revelation of coming judgment and then hid the Jewish spies to protect them. We could cite many other examples of Gentiles who lived in Old Testament times that “believed God’s Word and were justified by faith.”

Having said that, the nation of Israel was called of God to be His “chosen people.” We see this in Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” But we must ask, “What were they chosen FOR?” This verse is NOT speaking of salvation, for as we read through the Old Testament, we see that many Israelites were NOT believers but wicked sinners who turned to idolatry and worshipped false gods. The nation of Israel was chosen to be a testimony to all the other nations of the ONE TRUE GOD and in this they failed time and time again. But Israel was also chosen for another very special purpose, for it would be through them that the Messiah/Savior would be born, as we read in Romans 9:4-5, “Who are Israelites…of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came.” King David was promised he would have a son who would be Israel’s king and that God would “establish the throne of His kingdom forever” (2nd Samuel 7:12-13). That “son” was Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1:1). Jesus grew up and went throughout the nation declaring that He was their long-awaited Messiah yet He was rejected by the masses. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). When this rejection became obvious Jesus began to speak of the main reason that He was born…to be the “Savior of the world” (see John 4:1-30, 39-42). He made it very clear that salvation would be accomplished through His death on the cross for the sins of all who would believe (see John 3:14-18; 5:24; 10:9-18, 27-28). Thus, salvation is offered to “all men” but only benefits “those who believe” (see Romans 3:22). This was true for men and women who lived in Old Testament times and it continues to the end of time. We conclude then that people have always been “saved/justified by faith” whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

In closing, when Jesus returns again in power and glory, He will indeed establish His kingdom and sit on His throne as King of kings and Lord of lords (see Matthew 24:29-30; 25:31; Revelation 19:11-16). All (Jews and Gentiles) who believed on Him as their Lord and Savior will have a part in His 1,000-year kingdom (see Matthew 25:32-34 and Revelation 20:4-6). They will never forget that their right to be there is because they were “born again and saved by faith” (see John 3:3-7 and Ephesians 2:8-9).  (DO) (499.5)