Christian denominations have different beliefs about how those who died before Jesus existed, or before their denomination existed, can gain salvation.

For example, some denominations believe that the souls of those people were in Limbo until Christ's Ascension. Others believe in the necessity to baptize people in the past by proxy.

Considering that people in the distant past would not have been Jehovah's Witnesses nor may not even have known about Jesus, in order to put faith in him, what are Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs on how such people could gain salvation?

Do you believe that they were somehow informed about Jesus ahead of time? Or do you baptize dead people by proxy, or is there some other mechanism? Or are they eternally doomed?


3 Answers 3


TL;DR - Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe they are the only people who will be saved. Jesus' ransom sacrifice was designed to retroactively cancel out the sin which has been inherited by everyone from Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Hebrews 2:9) Sincere ones who have died without an opportunity to exercise faith in Christ will receive an opportunity when they are resurrected during Christ's Millennial Reign. (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15)

First off, you may want to read the article: What Is Salvation?

Just as we are able to put faith in Jesus' sacrifice even though we didn't personally see it, Jehovah's people had been putting faith in the Messiah long before Jesus brought about the prophecy's fulfillment. (John 8:56) When Adam and Eve first sinned, God immediately spoke of a Messianic prophecy by which humankind would eventually be restored to a sinless state.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head, and you will strike him in the heel.” —Genesis 3:15

Throughout history, faithful men and women have been putting their trust in this promise as God continued to expound on how it would be fulfilled by the Messiah. Hebrews chapter 11 lists many faithful ones from the Old Testament who found God's favor and received salvation.

13 In faith all of these died, although they did not receive the fulfillment of the promises; but they saw them from a distance and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. 14 For those who speak in such a way make it evident that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. 15 And yet, if they had kept remembering the place from which they had departed, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven. Therefore, God is not ashamed of them, to be called on as their God, for he has prepared a city for them.Hebrews 11:13-16

However, all of these faithful ones from before Jesus' day have the earthly hope, just as most Jehovah's Witnesses have today. The heavenly hope has been reserved for 144,000 which have been chosen by Christ ever since his death. Those with the heavenly hope will assist Christ in ruling the righteous ones on Earth.

39And yet all of these, although they received a favorable witness because of their faith, did not obtain the fulfillment of the promise, 40 because God had foreseen something better for us, so that they might not be made perfect apart from us. —Hebrews 11:39-40

This is the only distinction between those who died before Jesus' death and those who died after: the ones who died after are able to be members of the 144,000.


Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that all who died before they had the chance to put faith in Jesus are unconscious in the grave. They will be resurrected to life on earth and be taught about Gods wonderful plan of salvation. They are then able to reap the benefits of the ransom sacrifice.

In this article a lot of questions that you may have about how those long dead can be saved is found.

In part it says:

The Bible clearly shows that God does not disregard people who lived without knowledge of his requirements. Acts 17:30 assures us: “God has overlooked the times of such ignorance.” What hope, then, does the Bible hold out for those who died without having an opportunity to learn about God?

The answer can be found in what Jesus told one of the criminals who died alongside him. The man said to Jesus: “Remember me when you get into your Kingdom.” What was Jesus’ reply? “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:39-43.

Was Jesus promising that the man would enter into heaven? No. The man had not been “born again” from water and spirit, which was a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of the heavens. (John 3:3-6) Rather, Jesus was promising that the criminal would live again, in Paradise. Being a Jew, the man was likely familiar with the earthly Paradise—the garden of Eden—described in the first book of the Bible. (Genesis 2:8) Jesus’ promise gave him the assured hope of a resurrection to Paradise when it is reestablished on earth.

In fact, the Bible promises “a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) “The unrighteous” are those who did not meet God’s righteous standards because they were ignorant of God’s will. Jesus will resurrect the unrighteous criminal who spoke with him, as well as millions, perhaps billions, of others who died in ignorance. Then, in the Paradise earth, they will be taught God’s requirements, and they will have the opportunity to prove that they love God by obeying his commandments.

  • 1
    The last paragraph, "In fact ... commandments" seems to also be an exact quote from the same source, so should probably be included in the blockquote. I noticed the somewhat indirect url. Whether you change that or not, it would probably be good to identify the original source as the Watchtower magazine for June 2014.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 3:36
  • @disciple thanks I missed that one in the >_
    – 007
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 3:44

This is really a complicated question, because giving an answer that is easily understood requires knowledge of other foundational bible teachings (Hebrews 6:1). However, to supplement the above answers, or to give a simple answer to your question I offer the following...

After Armageddon, during the thousand year reign of Christ (Rev 20:6), a resurrection of earths inhabitants is foretold to take place (John 11:24; Acts 24:15). This time period is commonly referred to as ”Judgement Day”. Most people picture judgement day as a long line of resurrected people standing before Jesus throne while he condemns some to death and others to life for what they have done WHILE PREVIOUSLY ON EARTH. However the scriptures indicate that “day” is a beautiful period of time when the resurrected inhabitants of the earth have an opportunity to learn about God and Jesus, without meddling by Satan or the woes of the system we now live in. (Isaiah 26:9,10; Revelation 20:5) Those who accept God’s provisions will now receive everlasting life, on earth, as God originally intended (Gen 1:28; Isaiah 55:11).

To learn more about Judgement day, please follow the following link..


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