People before Jesus' Time


How were the people who came before Jesus saved?


Who do you think were the souls in prison that Jesus preached to? (In Peter’s 2nd (?) Epistle).

As described by Paul, the Mosaic Covenant couldn’t save anyone. I think those that were righteous were in Sheol (Greek - Hades, not to be confused with our concept of hell). Jesus went and preached the Gospel to them. Those that accepted His words, were the first ones through the gates.

Please read my signature, because I’m really not sure about this one. I guess you could call it the “Gospel of Notworthy”!!!


Hi Katy,

You will recall that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was “saved” before Jesus was even born. She was born free of original sin, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ to come. In the same way, those who lived before Jesus could be saved, if they followed the lead of their conscience.

How is this possible? Well, to God there is no past, or future. Everything is in the present. Before Jesus was born, he had, in God’s mind already offered Himself to Father in sacrifice and redeemed mankind. So the merits of his act could already be applied.

Does this answer your question?



They were saved exactly the way we are saved, by God’s grace through the salvific work of Jesus Christ on the cross. All salvation comes from Him. NotWorthy is correct that after Jesus died, he descended to preach to the spirits in prison (1 Pet 3:19) . Also, Eph 4:8-9 is applicable: 8: Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
9: (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?


Just to clarify some of the good answers already given.

After his death, Jesus descended into Hell (as we say in the Apostles Creed). By this it is meant Limbo Patrum (the Limbo of the Fathers). This is an outer region of Hell where the righteous who died before Christ resided until his death (Jesus could not have entered the Hell of the Damned, b/c this region is defined by the absence of God). Jesus saved the souls in Limbo Patrum, and took them with him when he ascended into Heaven.

Therefore the righteous before Christ were saved, but not until Christ died and rose.

God Bless.


Do the people in Limbo include Abraham, Elijah etc?

Also could you tell me which section in the Catechism of the Catholic church talks about this.



Yes. The gates of Heaven were shut, although some people were outside banging on them, so to speak.

Jesus most certainly would have descended to the very depths of Hell and preached to every single spirit trapped there. But not all received Him, or to be more accurate, we don’t know that all received Him. Just as on Earth, God does not simply override a human will.


A link from the Catechism of Trent thate explains it all, copywrited by James Akin, so it should be orthodox.

It is clear Jesus did not descend to Gehenna, the Hell of torment.
The souls there had already been condemned. Only the just awaited his arrival. The Hell of torment is by definition the absence of God, so God will never go there.

God Bless


It seems that the main answer to this question is that Christ had to descend to Hell to preach to the spirits there to then allow those people to come into heaven.
I have never found this answer satisfactory. It has several problems with it. The most obvious problem is that Moses and Elijah were in heaven before Jesus died. (This is clear because of the transfiguration.) It is probably safe to assume that Abraham was in heaven because of the parable of Lazarus going to Abraham’s bosom. (granted it is simply a parable) And of course Elijah was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot. This is all predating Christ.
The response will probably be that time for God is not linear. I think that that introduces a different problem. We are made to be limited in time and space. God created us to have these limitations. He intended that there would be eskimos and aborigines who never heard of the name of Jesus. This is part of His plan and is not a frustration to Him. He demanded that we fill the earth and multiply. I’ve always wondered why. Wouldn’t it be better to have everyone gathered around at one time and then die and rise so everyone can know about it? The fact that he didn’t tells me that God intends on using space and time as a part of His plan. He intends that some people have very little information to work with. I believe it is His mercy, but i don’t know for sure. Some may be saved even if by the skin of their teeth, and some may fully embrace even the hardness of God and take Him in fully, as in the Eucharist.

I honestly believe that the answer to this question is that those people prior to Christ and away from any means of hearing were saved exactly as we are. Through faith in Christ. [We shouldn’t forget that the old testament is full of names for Jesus! (i.e. the anointed one, the root of Jesse, the morning star)]
This is what Paul is saying in Romans 4:3 "What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’
(BTW. I don’t intend this to be an argument for sola fides.)

Romans 10:13,17-18.
"12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” …17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”.

Paul is quoting Psalms 19 concerning creation. As he phrases it in the first chapter of Romans, Creation testifies even concerning His Godhead, so that all men are without excuse. The simplest explanation (and therefore the most likely) is that we all have some opportunity to choose Christ or anti-Christ. Whether we have heard the good news or not we all understand this choice. Anything beyond this is ‘multiplying entities beyond necessity.’



Not Worhty said:

Who do you think were the souls in prison that Jesus preached to? (In Peter’s 2nd (?) Epistle).

Amen :slight_smile:


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