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John 3:16 (NIV) 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The New Testament clearly tells us how one can attain salvation or eternal life.

What about Old Testament? Was there any promise of eternal life associated with any of the Mosaic Law. For instance, was animal sacrifice promised with eternal life?

How can we understand this verse?

Matthew 19:16 (NIV) Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

If the rich man was a Jew, he must have known how to attain eternal life from the Torah.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Was there any promise of eternal life associated with any of the Mosaic Law. For instance, was animal sacrifice promised with eternal life?

No. Eternal life is foretold in the Old Testament, but never as a promise associated to obedience to Mosaic Law.

The following verses refer to life after death, hinting at the eternal nature of life. This explains the how the man in Matthew 19:16 knew about eternal life.

All are NIV.

Psalm 71:20

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

Isaiah 26:19

But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

Ezekiel 37:12-14

12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

And one that clearly teaches everlasting life as part and parcel with resurrection:

Daniel 12:2

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

However, these are prophetic or poetic works, not books of the Law. I'm not aware of any teachings on eternal life in the Pentateuch - this first five books, which are commonly referred to as the "books of the Law". Technically, those are "The Law of Moses" or "Mosaic Law", so it would seem that the answer to your question is "no" if you wish to be that precise, but there are Old Testament teachings/revelations/writings on it.

From a traditional Sola Fide perspective, you wouldn't expect it to, though.

Most of the Mosaic laws talked about consequences or punishment for sin, along with a few promises of reward for obedience.

However, Scripture clearly teaches that eternal life is not earned through obedience to the Law. It is a gift from God, not of works. (Ephesians 2:9.) We are not justified by works of the law (Galatians 2:16)

If the Mosaic Law promised eternal life based on obedience to the Law, the entire message of Christianity would be invalidated.

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+1 Nice answer. –  Narnian Mar 7 '13 at 19:38
    
The bold and after answers why the law would never provide eternal life. The law was made to condemn. Then Christ came to save. You should bold the last sentence. –  fredsbend Mar 7 '13 at 19:52

It is correct that the written Hebrew Scriptures, aka the "Old Testament", says nothing specific about the afterlife. For that reason, the Sadduccees held that there was no life after death and no punishment for sins after death. Mark 12:18.

The Pharisees, in contrast, believed in an afterlife and believed that the concept had been retained in the "Oral Law." According to the rabbis, what we know of G-d's Law (i.e. the Torah) that was given at Mount Sinai is contained in the "Written Torah" (the Five Books of Moses -- Genesis through Deuteronomy) and in the "Oral Torah" which were detailed explanations about the commandments and theology sometimes alluded to in the Written Torah but not stated explicitly. The Written Torah itself hints at this at several places, most obviously at Deut. 12:21, where G-d says "Then you may slaughter of your herd and flock...as I have commanded you." Nowhere in the written Torah is there any commandment regarding how to slaughter. From this verse we know that the method was taught by G-d to Moses and he, in turn, orally taught those details to Joshua and the Elders, who in turn passed it on to their successors, and so on. The Sadducces rejected the existence of the Oral Torah. Josephus, Antiquities 13.10.6. Jesus, it would appear, accepted the Pharisee's understanding of the Oral Torah for he said that the Pharisees "sit in the seat of Moses; therefore all they tell you, do and observe." Matt. 22:2-3.

The Pharisees wrote down the Oral Law in the years after the Second Temple was destroyed because the Romans had done much to try to murder the rabbis and thereby destroy knowledge of the Oral Law. Iggeres of Rav Shireria Gaaon (ca 982 Babylon). In their writings, they frequently make mention of the World to Come in terms of both life after death and in terms of the resurrection during the Messianic Era. With reference to the former, the Mishna Avos 4:16-17 quotes Rabbi Yaakov saying: "This world is comparable to the antechamber before the World to Come. Prepare yourself in the antechamber, so that you may enter the banquet hall," and"A single moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is greater than all of the World to Come. And a single moment of bliss in the World to Come is greater than all of the present world."

The Pharisees also compared the holiness and tranquility of Heaven with that of a properly-observed Sabbath: "Whoever toiled on the eve of the Sabbath (i.e. Friday) will eat on the Sabbath itself, but whoever did not toil on the eve of the Sabbath, from where will he eat on the Sabbath?" Talmud Bavli, Avodah Zarah 3a (i.e. our efforts in this world are like the efforts we make to prepare each week for the Sabbath). But, as this quotation suggests, the Rabbis would agree that observance of the Torah laws is a prerequisite for getting into Heaven and our efforts in this World is to increase and improve our observance of G-d's commandments so that we will be prepared for the world to come. See, e.g. Luzatto, Moshe Chaim, The Complete Mesillat Yesharim (Ofeq Institute 2007) p. 305 (originally published in 1740).

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