This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
How did people make it to heaven before the Ten Commandments and before Christ? Particularly, very early man, cavemen per se. We have ancient artifacts from around the world from early man such as spears and pottery, but how were these people saved and how did they make it to heaven?
Dr. William Lane Craig's Response
I presume we’re talking about prehistoric people made in the image of God and therefore fully human. Like all persons to whom special revelation has not come, troglodytes were beneficiaries of God’s general revelation in nature and conscience (Romans 1-2). Their only hope of salvation would be that through an appropriate faith-response to God’s general revelation God would apply to them the benefits of Christ’s atoning death despite their ignorance of Christ. In Romans 3.25 Paul says that God sent Christ as an atoning sacrifice for sin. “He did this to show his righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Paul’s thought is that people in ages prior to Christ did not receive the judgement they deserved; rather God overlooked those sins until Christ came and then put him forward as a sacrificial offering to bear those sins. Similarly, in his Mars Hill address in Athens Paul says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17.30).
In short, the penalty for those people’s sins, so long stayed by God, has at last been paid by Christ. Thus, a place in heaven at the final resurrection of the dead is at least accessible for such persons.
This Q&A and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website.