Question of the week: I really need help with the timing of Jesus’s appearance to us in space and time; that is, his incarnation. With the New Testament’s insistence on the exclusivity of belief in Jesus for salvation, what about those millions of souls before Jesus came and made clear the pathway to salvation? Please share your thoughts as well as other resources.
My answer: Job is a good example of people receiving eternal salvation before the incarnation. In examining the book of nature, Job realized that there had to be a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. Job, in examining his conscience, realized that he lacked the resources to live up to the law God had written on his heart. However, he discerned that God was so loving and so powerful that he must have provided a means of redemption. Job put his trust in the Advocate-Redeemer (Job 16:19–21) and as recorded in Job 19:25–27 was able to declare the assurance of his salvation: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
Acts 4:12 states that “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 2:21 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Job did not know the name Jesus of Nazareth, but he did know that there had to be an Advocate who himself was God who would provide a means of redemption. In the Old Testament the second person of the Trinity has over 80 different names. What is crucial for salvation is not merely speaking one of these 80+ names. Rather, it is knowing the character attributes of the second person of the triune God and what those character attributes imply concerning the means for our salvation. For more on this subject see Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job, chapters 14 and 15 and Beyond the Cosmos, 3rd edition, chapters 14–18.