Question: Did tentative justification operate prior to our Lord’s First Advent, and if so, who were the tentatively justified?
Answer: Yes, tentative justification did operate prior to our Lord’s First Advent. God could reckon those individuals who exercised faith in His promises as tentatively justified, knowing that in due time Jesus would lay down His perfect human life as a ransom, corresponding price, for Father Adam and the entire race in his loins. This is shown in Romans 4: 3: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” According to the chart of the Divine Plan, Abraham and the rest of the Ancient Worthies would have been on plane N, the plane of actual, or reckoned human perfection.
Were there any other individuals, beside the Ancient Worthies, who were tentatively justified prior to our Lord’s First Advent? We think not. Although the Ancient Worthies would have been tentatively justified before consecration, it does not seem that there was a separate class of individuals who were tentatively justified, but not consecrated before the Gospel Age. The Lord apparently provided tentative justification before our Lord’s First Advent for the sole purpose of going on to consecration. If any did not have enough faith to go on to consecration, their tentative justification would perhaps have lapsed.
Beside the Ancient Worthies, the only other class of God’s people before our Lord’s First Advent were those Israelites who, in the Jewish Age were not faithful enough to be become Ancient Worthies, but still retained faith in the Abrahamic promises and clung to the Mosaic Covenant. We call this class the Jewish-Age loyal Covenant-believing Jews. Though not tentatively justified, they will be among the quasi-elect, the “sons,” in God’s coming Kingdom (Joel 2: 28).
Circumstances have been different during the Gospel Age. There have been various classes of individuals who have attained tentative justification through repentance and faith in Christ as their Savior, but who have not gone on to consecration. But as long as they have been able to maintain their faith in Christ and have continued to seek to live a righteous life, they have maintained their tentative justification, and if it was, or is, maintained until the end of their life, they will also be among the quasi-elect in the Kingdom.