Were Old Testament Men and Women Saved by Their Keeping of the Law?

Question from a reader:

Are the men and women we read about in the Old Testament saved and going to Heaven because of their keeping of sacrificial requirements of the law? Today we know we must believe in his death on the cross for forgiveness of our sins and salvation, but what about the people born before Jesus came to earth?

Answer from Julia (Stager) Mayo, former EPM research assistant:

Hebrews 10:4 says: "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Men and women have never been saved by their sacrifices but by their faith. Genesis 15:6 says, "And [Abram] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness." Paul cites this verse in his letter to the Romans as evidence that no man is saved by works (e.g. sacrifices), but faith (Romans 4:1-8). The sacrifices of the Old Testament were a way for God to reveal himself to his people, teach them the consequences of sin,the difference between life and death, and give them an opportunity to show their love for him through loving obedience and faithfulness. The sacrifices also pointed to the coming Messiah who is Jesus. He is the true and ultimate sacrifice for the atonement for Jew and Gentile alike. 

Julia (Stager) Mayo holds a Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary. She was previously part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and still does occasional research work for Randy Alcorn.