Revised 05/2006
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will


Is it true no one was born again in the Old Testament and Jesus had to go save them during a three day period?


Yes, it is true that godly persons of the OT were not "born again."  But before explaining, let me remind you that the correct expression is "begotten from above."  This is the terminology of Jesus in John 3.  Some translate it "born anew," but that is not right either.  No one is "born again."  No one is "born anew."  When anyone receives the Word as delivered by Jesus, and believes, that person has received the seed of the Father into the heart and from this comes the newly "begotten from above" child of the Father in heaven.  This is in no way a repeat of a prior experience.  These are the ones defined by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower:
[15] And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Jesus explained the mystery of the begetting from above to Nicodemus as a begetting of the Spirit.  Then later he shows how this is related to the Word in the following:
63] It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
The translators reveal their failure to understand this verse by not capitalizing Spirit, although they do so in the context of Chapter 3 of the Fourth Gospel (3:6,8).  The Words of Jesus are unique in all history -- they carry the capacity to produce a birth of the Spirit when anyone receives them in an honest and good heart.  This is what produces the child of the Father in heaven.  This Word was not in the world before Jesus came, therefore no one was begotten from above among the Old Testament men of God.  Jesus and the OT universally designate them as "servants" rather than children. To be a child of God, one must be begotten from above.

Jesus did not say that he descended into hell during the 3 day period, so I cannot say.  I do have a belief based on the sparse scriptural evidence.  The primary Biblical text for this doctrine is:
[18] For Christ also died for sins once for all, 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;
[19] in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
20] who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
This is not the inspired Word, and may represent only the sympathies of the early Christians when this epistle was written.  You notice also that it refers only to those who perished in the Flood -- not to the godly persons of the OT.

When we look more closely to Jesus for Light on this subject, we have a mixed view that may represent the confusion of the first disciples following his crucifixion.  We can go by this, which is what I believe:
11] And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
12] While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13] But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Then he said to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection:
[17] Jesus said to her, Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
I conclude that Jesus, on his ascension, went to the Father in heaven and that nothing took place prior to that to falsify John 17:13.  This utterance, spoken shortly prior to his crucifixion, is very specific:

. . . now I am coming to thee;
This conclusion is consistent with the assumption that he simply slept the sleep of death in that tomb during those three days, based on this utterance:
[40] For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
There are other considerations but this is enough to suggest that one should be wary of being dogmatic about the status of the Lord during the three days.   It is not significant to our salvation, and dogmatic pronouncements on it only create divisions between disciples who otherwise might see all things as one, being united in the Spirit as we ought to be.  

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