Luk 23:39  And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

Luk 23:40  But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

Luk 23:41  And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

Luk 23:42  And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

Luk 23:43  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.




I think the best way for me to answer this is to more or less quickly survey the overall doctrine regarding justification unto eternal life in God’s program with Israel. And then having done so, look at the issue particularly during the climactic stage in Israel’s program which was in effect when the Lord was in Israel. First of all let me point out something that we need to keep in mind, especially when we are talking about things in Israel’s program. And this is that the terms “saved,” “salvation,” etc., often have much more involved in them than just the fundamental issue of justification unto eternal life, or salvation from the debt and penalty of one’s sins. (This is very important to understand and appreciate, for example, in the Gospel accounts and early Acts with the “gospel of the kingdom” being preached to Israel. The “gospel of the kingdom” proclaimed what I call a salvation package to Israel that involved much more than justification in God’s sight, or more than salvation from their sins. It included issues of physical salvation or deliverance as well, which were naturally necessary issues at that time with the prophesied Lord’s day of wrath being “at hand” along with the kingdom.)



Rom 3:24  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Rom 3:25  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

Rom 3:26  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Rom 3:27  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Rom 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Rom 3:29  Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

Rom 3:30  Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Rom 3:31  Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.



With this necessary distinction between justification unto eternal life (or salvation from the penalty of sin) and other kinds of salvation in mind, let me briefly go over the issue of how people were justified unto eternal life (or saved from the debt and penalty of their sins) in time past in God’s program with Israel. Paul makes it clear in his doctrine to us that justification unto eternal life has always been, and can only be, by grace; and that faith in the Redeemer has always been the only thing that God’s Justice could ever respond to for justification unto eternal life. This Paul sets forth, for example, in Romans 3:27–31 where in connection with this he teaches us first the fact that because of the boasting nature of works they by necessity are judicially excluded when it comes to justification in God’s sight.



Hab 2:4  Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.


God’s perfect Justice cannot accept them whatsoever. But then Paul continues on in Romans 4 citing both Abraham and David, and in so doing verifies from the Scriptures the fact that both before the Law and under it justification unto eternal life has been by grace through faith in the Redeemer without works. From this, therefore, we know that people under the Law were justified unto eternal life by faith, just as Habakkuk 2:4 pronounced. As Paul declares, God can only count faith for righteousness; faith is the only thing God’s Justice can accept; hence, under the Law they were justified unto eternal life by faith too.



Rom 4:2  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Rom 4:3  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Rom 4:4  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

Rom 4:5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Rom 4:6  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

Rom 4:7  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Rom 4:8  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Rom 4:9  Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.


In Galatians 3:23–25, as Paul amplifies upon the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, he describes just how justification worked before “the faith of Jesus Christ” was revealed as it is for us in this present dispensation. And as Paul states in verse 24, those under the Law were still “justified by faith.” However, their faith was in what the scriptures proclaimed about the Redeemer, and their sinful necessity for a Redeemer. Yet it was still faith, and faith only, that God responded to for their justification in His sight. The Law did NOT school them in “the faith of Jesus Christ.” It did NOT, therefore, school them in the good news about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for their sins. The Law ‘schooled’ the justified in sanctification issues dealing with their sins AFTER being declared righteous in God’s sight.


Gal 3:22  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Gal 3:23  But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Gal 3:24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Gal 3:25  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Gal 3:26  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.



For Christ not only had not come and died, but in accordance with the Law “shutting them up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed,” the clear issue about the cross work of Christ was not declared/preached to them. (This is also why even the 12 apostles did not understand the meaning of the Lord’s death when He told them about it, as recorded for example in Luke 18:31–34.)


Luk 18:31  Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.

Luk 18:32  For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:

Luk 18:33  And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.

Luk 18:34  And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.


Instead the issue is that with the Law functioning as a “schoolmaster,” it schooled them in the very elementary issues of their sinner status, and in view of it their need for redemption because they could not justify themselves in God’s sight. It is this elementary or rudimentary truth that they were expected to believe from the Law’s function as a “schoolmaster.” And when they believed it. God counted their faith for righteousness. He justified them unto eternal life by faith. Justification in God’s sight when the Lord was in Israel still occurred as it did prior to His arrival in the land.


Gal 3:11

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.


Justification took place when a Jew believed the counsel of God against him that declared his sinner status, that he could not justify himself, and that his only hope was in a Redeemer. (Which, by the way, is what the first mandate of the Davidic Covenant is all about regarding the doctrine of the Christ.) The Law schooled them in this as it functioned as the “schoolmaster” Paul says that it was, as has already been noted. It still did this when the Lord was here, but so also did “the gospel of the kingdom.”



Luk 18:9  And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Luk 18:10  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

Luk 18:11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

Luk 18:12  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Luk 18:13  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Luk 18:14  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


 In fact “the gospel of the kingdom” first and foremost attacked the Pharisee doctrine of natural righteousness, declaring to the people of Israel the reality of the fact that they were a “generation of vipers.” And the “gospel of the kingdom” took that description of condemnation right from the Law and the Prophets; vipers being accursed and unclean creatures according to the Law. Therefore the “gospel of the kingdom” started off with the plain declaration of the counsel of God against Israel, declaring the Law’s condemnation of them. Hence, the “gospel of the kingdom” contained the Law’s “schoolmaster” function, and it contained it in a very blunt and ‘right-between-the-eyes’ type manner because of the urgency involved with the kingdom being “at hand.” So justification unto eternal life (or salvation from the debt and penalty of sin) proceeded on as normal under the Law, even when the Lord was in Israel.


Act 19:3  And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.

Act 19:4  Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.


The issue of a Jew at this time believing that Jesus was The Christ/Messiah needs to be understood and appreciated in connection with this, and for what that meant in view of what the Law, the Prophets, and the “gospel of the kingdom” was saying. To put it briefly: as Paul himself explained in Acts 19:4, when John the Baptist preached the “gospel of the kingdom” and preached the baptism of repentance to the people of Israel, he said “unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Therefore, believing “on Christ Jesus” was actually part of responding positively to what the “gospel of the kingdom” was saying. With Christ at that time being in the land, the “gospel of the kingdom” was able to also declare to the people that the Christ-Redeemer they needed was now there. So, naturally they believed on Him as such as part of believing the counsel of God against themselves. For this reason the Lord says what He does, for example, in John 6:47, when He declared; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” In view of what the “gospel of the kingdom” was saying, believing on Him meant that an Israelite accepted the counsel of God against himself. He changed his mind about himself, believing God’s counsel, and God responded to his faith with justification unto everlasting life.



Joh 6:46  Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

Joh 6:47  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

Joh 6:48  I am that bread of life.


Keith Blades

Enjoy The Bible Ministries



*Note by the administrator: For a more detailed look into the doctrine of Israel justification please visit the Bible study section here for the study entitled “Justifications And Salvations” also “Confession: the Misuse of Romans 10:9” or you can order the DVD at enjoythebible.org

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