I have a Jewish friend who has a very interesting question in regard
to Abraham, Faith and Jesus. If God credited Abraham's faith as
righteousness and he went to heaven without Christ, why do we need
Christ to enter into God's kingdom? Could you refer me to some
scholars and/or would you give me some insights that could help my
friend. I do need to hear from you no later than tomorrow, 4:00pm
Eastern Time. Thank you in advance for your help and assistance.
In His service.
thanks for the email. And you are right... it is an interesting question! Here
are a few thoughts in response:
While it is definitely true that Abraham believed God and God credited his faith
as righteousness, you will also note that the covenant that God made with
Abraham at the same time was based on a blood sacrifice. See Gen 15:6-21. This
carries on the theme started in the Garden when God made coats of skins for Adam
and Eve to cover their nakedness that there should be a blood sacrifice to cover
our sins. (Gen 3:21) It carried on with Abel's sacrifice to God being accepted
in Gen 4:4. And Abraham certainly knew about the importance of a blood
sacrifice. So yes, faith is the means by which God has always credited
righteousness - but God has also shown mankind that it is through a blood
sacrifice that sins would be covered. That is why when the law was given God was
emphatically clear that:
'For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to
make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement
for one’s life. ' (Lev 17:11)
Of course God did this as a pointer to the ultimate sacrifice that would be once
and for all - Jesus' sacrifice. He was teaching mankind right from the garden
until the ultimate fulfilment could be made with the death of His own Son!
A second point that should be noted is that Abraham knew something about Jesus.
How much he knew we cannot say but as Jesus told the Jews of His day - 'Our
father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was
glad." "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have
seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born,
I am!". (John 8:56-58)
So even Abraham had faith in the Messiah and saw something (though again we
don't know how much God revealed to him). And even in the sacrifice of Isaac God
was showing Abraham and allowing him to experience what He (God the Father)
would have to go through in allowing His own Son to be sacrificed to atone for
sin. (See Gen 22) And the Old Testament saints knew of the promised redeemer
right from Gen 3:15. Even Job (probably the oldest book written) expressed His
hope in the redeemer and the resurrection so he knew something. (Job 19:25-27)
So you can't just isolate one verse from the rest which show that God was
continually teaching men about faith in a redeemer and redemption through a
blood sacrifice. All the way through God was teaching and showing Abraham and
others about faith in a sacrifice and faith in the Messiah-Redeemer.
The other point that should be noted
is that there is progressive revelation with God and He does hold people
responsible to believe in the revelation that He has given. So with the coming
of Jesus, God was revealed in a man. He has given us all the evidence that we
need to trust in Him. Jesus is God's last word to us in this regard. He is the
fulfillment of the prophecies and the types. While God may have accepted faith
in a general blood sacrifice in days gone by, He now asks all to look to His
Son. And that shouldn't be despised.
The last point I will make (and it isn't overly important but should be noted)
is that I don't think the Old Testament saints such as Abraham did go to Heaven
until Jesus' resurrection. Jesus taught that they were held in 'Abraham's bosom'
(Luke 16:19-26) and that some came out of their graves after Jesus' resurrection
(Matt 27:52-53) and that when Jesus ascended to heaven He took these saints with
Him (Eph 4:7-10).
Anyway, hope that helps in your conversation with your friend.