I have wondered about those who died before the Crucifiction. I have heard from some that they went to hell until the Crucifiction ended, when those who had believed in Christ’s comming were taken to heaven. This could be supported by the passage in the New Testament where it says that after Christ’s death, many spirits were raised from the ground, and by when, in the Old Testament, Samuel, who Saul had tried to contact from the dead, told Saul that he would soon be “down here” with him. But it says in the Bible also that Enoch and Elijah were taken directly to heaven. If it were necessary for Christ’s death to actually take place before those who had believed on Him could enter heaven, then how could God have taken Elijah and Enoch into heaven before the Crucifiction? This subject is a mystery to me…
Those who died before Christ went to the “bosom of Abraham” (see the story of Lazarus and the rich man - Luke 16:22). It is analogous to the Greek Hades - not really Hellfire, just a place for the dead to reside.
This is a good question that leads up to learning about purgatory. Those who deny purgatory and say there is only Heaven and Hell and no other possible intermediate destination must somehow explain away bosom of Abraham to do it.
That is why there is the phrase in the Apostles Creed, “he descended into hell.” Those people who died before Christ came to bring salvation went to what we would call the Limbo of the Fathers, The Bosom of Abraham, or the Abode of the Dead, or what the creed simply calls “hell” but by which it does NOT mean the hell of the damned. It was a place of waiting.
After Jesus died, he “descended to the dead” to bring salvation to those who had gone before.
I read once that when Jesus died upon the cross it was like an explosion of Grace, Love, Mercy that extended tot he very beginning and the very end of time itself.
Therefore those who are saved before Christs incarnation, suffering, crucifixion and ressurrection (by whatever God judges them by. He is Just!) are still saved by the merits of Christ!!!
In fact, it seems, and I could be very wrong, but it seems from the following scripture that even those who were condemned int he flood have had a chance at repentence and salvation…
1 Peter3:19 “So He went and preached to the spirits in prison-those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat.”
i think is further supported by Jesus’ own words when He says in
"If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gommorah will be better off than such a town on Judgement day."
These are just my thoughts. I am not sure where they stay in respect to Church teaching.