In light of John 14:6, which says: "Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" — how can the people of the Old Testament be given eternal life?
The key to this puzzle lies within Jesus’ own words, where He refers to Himself as “I am.” In John 8:58, Jesus declares, …before Abraham was born, I am. The Jews He addressed that day understood perfectly that by using that phrase He was claiming to be the very same God whom Moses encountered at the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-15). There, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14).
Jesus in the New Testament is the great I AM of the Old Testament. Jesus could say to Thomas in John 14:6, No one comes to the Father except through me, because Jesus and the Father are one. As He says in the very next verse, If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. Those who put their faith in the I Am of the Old Testament put their faith in Jesus—before He was revealed in the flesh.
Jesus’ revelation of Himself as the I AM is sprinkled throughout the gospel of John, often with direct allusions to His presence among the people of Israel in the Old Testament:
“I am the bread of life…” “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (the manna in the wilderness, Ex. 16:13-34—John 6:35, 41, 48, 51).
“I am the light of the world” (the light of creation, Gen. 1:3-4—John 8:12).
“…I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23).
“…if you do not believe that I am… you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24).
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…” (raising the snake on a pole in the wilderness, Num. 21:7-9—John 8:28).
It was as true in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament that “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Eph. 2:8). That faith was always a matter of putting one’s entire trust in the One True God, as He revealed Himself prior to the final and perfect revelation in human form. As it says in Hebrews 1:1-3:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through
the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his
Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and
through whom he made the universe. The Son is
the radiance of God’s glory and the exact repre-
sentation of his being, sustaining all things by hispowerful word.