Gentiles in time past could get eternal life if they approached God in God’s way. God’s plan in time past concerned Israel as a chosen people by God to dispense the blessings of God to the world. Gentiles then could get eternal life through Israel.
God made a promise to Abraham that through him all the world would be blessed. “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
This promise was eventually confirmed to Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and to Israel by Jesus (Romans 15:8). Even Jesus recognized the special status that the Jew had as God’s channel of blessing when he ‘came to his own’.
“Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: FOR SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS.” – John 4:22
The fathers of Israel were given the promise of eternal life. To obtain eternal life Gentiles had to either 1) become a Jew, or 2) bless the Jews.
Becoming a Jew
The law given to Israel allowed for Gentiles to become a part of the nation Israel through taking circumcision and following the law:
“And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, LET ALL HIS MALES BE CIRCUMCISED, and then let him come near and keep it; and HE SHALL BE AS ONE THAT IS BORN IN THE LAND: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.” – Exodus 12:48
“Blessing Them that Bless Thee”
However, if Gentiles did not proselytize and become a Jew then they could also receive blessing through blessing Israel as was promised in Genesis 12:3.
In Luke 7:1-9 Jesus heals a Gentile friend of a centurion because of his many blessings to the nation Israel including building a Jewish synagogue. After this event Jesus replied regarding these Gentiles,
“…I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Luke 7:9)
Men at all times must come to God in God’s way. This means that in time past, before the revelation of the mystery and Jesus’ death, Gentiles had to take part in Israel’s promises and covenants to obtain blessing. If they respected the position of the nation Israel as God’s channel of blessing to the world, then they would inherit eternal life in the kingdom.