I always hear people say that Old Testament believers didn’t go straight to Heaven when they died. That they had to wait for Jesus to die on the cross and come and free them to take them to Heaven. Like they were “on hold.” But that leads me to think that regeneration didn’t happen until the church age because if someone is born again why would they have to wait? What do you think? Thank you.
First, we know that regeneration happened prior to the Church Age because of the many places in which the Lord Jesus spoke of everlasting life and the new birth. See, for example, John 3:16; 5:24, 39-40. Before the church was born, people could be born again by faith in Jesus. That was true for every Old Testament believer.
Second, we know from Luke 16:19-31 that Old Testament believers and unbelievers went to Sheol (= Hades in Greek). It was the place of all dead prior to Jesus’ ascension into the third heaven. Abraham and Lazarus were in the saved part. The rich man and other unbelievers were in the unsaved part, the place of torment.
Old Testament believers prior to Jesus’ ascension were indeed in a small sense on hold. Of course, believers who are now in the third heaven are also on hold in a sense. They long to be in the kingdom, just like we do. The fact that they are with the Lord doesn’t mean they don’t long for the kingdom. They share the Lord’s desire for the kingdom to come. Remember that the Apostle John, after Jesus says, “Surely I am coming quickly,” responded, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). His response is the right response for any believer, ones present with the Lord or ones on earth today.
All of creation is on hold until Jesus establishes His kingdom (Rom 8:19-22). We groan as we await the coming kingdom (2 Cor 5:2, 4).