I was asked, “how were OT Jews and Gentiles saved before the cross and was there a second chance when Jesus preached in Sheol (between the death and resurrection)?”
We need to remember that the Jew was NOT saved by doing the works of the law. The Jew was saved because the works of the law were being done IN or BY faith (belief) in God. The law was a Holy tool for “training in righteousness” or rules/ways to live relationally with others and with God. And, these ways or rules were to be done BY faith in Him, not as a labor or work that was earned for salvation.
Salvation came by a heart pointed towards GOD, not by the works of the law. The Jewish people made their 613 laws about the works themselves, when they were meant to make their “doing” about faith for living out these works of the law. If the law could save them, there would be no need for a Savoir.
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The righteous have always lived by faith. Before the cross and after the cross!
* Enoch wasn't a Jew, but walked with God so deep - he went home to heaven and never actually died!
* Job wasn’t a Jew, but was saved because he believed God.
* Noah wasn’t a Jew, yet Noah was spared because he believed God.
* Abraham wasn’t a Jew, he became the Father of that Nation - but Abraham was saved by faith.
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:2-3
It’s always been salvation by faith.
The law wasn’t given to the gentile, but they too (yes, before the cross) were saved by a conscience (voice of the heart) that was focused on the ways of God (Romans 2:14-16).
Now. Was there a second chance in Sheol when Jesus descended? Sorry. But NO.
This verse doesn’t say what tradition says it says.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” 1 Peter 3:18-20
It’s a run on sentence, which requires us to put the pieces together to find out what it really says.
In the context of suffering for the gospel, Peter is saying to us that Jesus too suffered for the unrighteous. As a living spirit, Jesus went and proclaimed the gospel THROUGH Noah to those spirits CURRENTLY in prison who are there because they disobeyed. He’s not saying Jesus went and preached to them in the 3 days of the death, burial, and resurrection.
The author of Hebrews makes clear that the good news of salvation by faith was to be received BEFORE the cross as well as after! This next verse is speaking about the unbelief of the pre cross Israelites in the desert.
“For good news came to us just as to 👉 them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” Hebrews 4:2
Salvation has always been through the faith of a heart bent towards God. That has never changed. The law never was meant to save the Jew, it was meant to point them towards God in faith.
Flat out. There is no second chance beyond death for a heart that rejects The Lord (see Isaiah 45:22-25).