During Old Testament times, only a few were God’s spiritual children in His world (Psa. 14:3). In Jesus’ time, a few were spiritual children of Abraham (John 8:23), and we see that the apostles were walking in the steps of Abraham under the Old Law (John 8:39). God’s spiritual children were scattered abroad during the Old Testament era (John 11:51-52).
There was a spiritual birth and death in Old Testament times. All men were born alive to God during the Old Testament and New Testament periods (Rom. 7:7-9). Adam and Eve were the first ones to die spiritually after they sinned (Gen 2:17). In the Old Testament period all men died the same spiritual death we see in Rom. 5:12-14. He gives the reason why all have died and simply testifies that all have sinned (Rom. 5:12). All have sinned and thus have died spiritually (Rom. 3:23). Men could be born again in the Old Testament period (Psa. 14:3). Notice that Daniel came alive to God one day when, for the first time, God began to listen to his prayers (Dan. 12:10). During that time God did not accept those who had turned away from His law (Pro. 28:9). Even those once alive were rejected when they turned to sin (Isa. 59:1-2). In Old Testament times the sinners were dead to God but the righteous were alive to God (Eze. 18:5-9). It was during the Old Testament era that Paul died spiritually (Rom. 7:7-9). There are two births in New Testament times (John 1:10-13). The Old Testament birth is still a real birth (Dan. 10:12). Daniel and many others came alive to God after they sinned and died spiritually. The apostles were alive to God before the cross (Matt. 13:16).
The Lord gives many examples of those who were alive to Him before they came into the kingdom. Cornelius was alive to God and his prayers and alms were accepted before he was in the kingdom (Acts 10:1-3). He could not enter heaven without being in Christ, in the kingdom (Eph. 2:11-13). Paul saw Christ and talked to Christ before he was converted (Acts 9:3-6), and he saw a vision before he was in the kingdom (Acts 9:12). The Ethiopian Eunuch was chosen before he heard the gospel (Acts 8:26-29). God opened Lydia’s heart before she was in the kingdom (Acts 16:14). God knew many of the Corinthians before they heard His word (Acts 18:9-10). God continues to seek those who understand and are seeking Him (Psa. 53:2). God is the one who decides who will be become his children, and they are “. . . born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). This is not to say that man has no part. God responds to “. . . as many as received him. . .” and gives them “. . . power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12-13).