1) In the Old Testament, Israel as a whole and individuals within the larger group repeatedly express their concern that God would be so gracious as to forgive their sins. For a random sampling check out Joshua 24:19, 1 Samuel 25:28, 1 Kings 8; Psalm 25:18; Psalm 79:9. And just open up the prophets pretty much anywhere.
2) The Old Testament is virtually devoid of any concern that Israel might have the privilege of going to heaven after death. One is buried with one’s fathers, or one goes to Sheol, or something. The afterlife in the Old Testament is alarmingly vague.
Therefore, Israel considered the forgiveness of sins to be very important and even urgent, but it was not because they wanted to be assured that a positive afterlife is waiting for them.
Question: Does this make sense to Christians?
If the Christian thinks Forgiveness of Sins equals “I’m going to heaven!” then it probably doesn’t make much sense at all.
So the next question is, What are we missing? Why should we yearn for God’s forgiveness in this life, on this day, and in this moment?
What Israel knew and what we so often don’t even acknowledge is that God is Father, provider, judge — and savior — now. He doesn’t only show up and he isn’t only important when you die.
If Christians were more in touch with the Story, particularly as it is revealed in the Old Testament, our proclamation of the gospel might not have deteriorated to the point that the most important question becomes “Do you know where you’d go if you died today?”
To do justice to the true nature of the biblical gospel, we need a better question. How about, “Do you know who God is?”