The Most Important Word in World History: Part 2

Stephan Beitze

Our Lord’s shout on the cross, Tetelestai! or, “It is finished!” is the most important word in world history. But what does it actually mean?

Revelation also comes from and is about Jesus, as He Himself testifies: “I am the Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8). At the conclusion of Revelation, the Lord testifies to us again by saying, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon’” (Rev 22:20).

So, we can say that all of Holy Scripture found its completion in Jesus Himself because, “It is finished!”

On the Cross, He also fulfilled the Father’s commission. In John 17:4, Jesus prayed, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” On the Cross, he completely fulfilled the Father’s will. He had described His commission in Matthew 20:28: “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In Gethsemane, He pled through tears not to have to go through this hour that would separate Him from His Father for the first time. He who had never sinned knew that as a sacrificial lamb on the Cross, He would be laden with the sin of the world. That meant judgment, and separation from God. But at the same moment, he consciously said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). He was ready to drink this bitter cup with its consequences to the last drop, until He could exclaim, “It is finished!” When He bowed His head and surrendered His spirit, He had done His job. The path that began in Bethlehem ended there on the Cross. He had reached His destination.

With His, “It is finished!” Christ also carried out His love to the end. In John 13:1 we read, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

Jesus’ love finds its perfection on the Cross. Even before that, not a loveless word passed through His lips. He addressed His traitor as “friend”; his denier was given a loving, sad look. He forgave the soldiers who crucified Him. This love can be seen even in the last minutes of His life. Although He was suffering unbearable physical, mental, and above all spiritual pain, He still thought of His mother by commending her to His disciple and placing him by her side. I am convinced that John, who doesn’t name himself here, fulfilled this commission with all love, because he had just witnessed the greatest act of love in world history.

Only someone who has personally experienced the love of Christ can truly love. John wrote down these words of Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is also John who enthusiastically exclaimed, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). And how is God’s love shown most clearly? We again find our answer in John: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If ever there was anyone who we could say loved, it is the Lord. And the phrase, “It is finished!” underscores His love. Have you already recognized and accepted this love? And if so, do you love others with this love?

Salvation itself was fulfilled on the Cross. After everything we’ve considered so far, it should go without saying, but of course salvation was also accomplished! Man is lost by nature, far from God. But everyone who believes in Jesus, asks His forgiveness for their sins, and accepts Him into their life, is then and forever redeemed from their burden of sin. Nothing more needs to be added to it.

It is very revealing that our understanding of the word tetelestai (“It is finished”) is confirmed by archaeology. Not so long ago, during the excavation of a tax office from that era, a pile of ancient invoices was found with tetelestai written over them in large print. It meant, “Paid in full.” We have a much better understanding of this word’s meaning. Sin’s debt is paid, sin’s power is broken, and our sins are forgiven forever if we belong to Jesus. The thousands of sacrifices were like a small and incomplete down payment. But thanks to Jesus’ death, our life’s promissory note reads, “Paid in full.” Therefore, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom 8:33-34).

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews affirms that Jesus came once and for all, “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:26). We don’t have to add anything to it. We no longer have to perform any works, adhere to any religion, or fear for our eternal salvation. Whoever avails himself of Jesus’ sacrifice is eternally forgiven, his guilt erased forever, and his redemption absolutely secured, because Jesus cried, “It is finished!”

“Finished” also means victory over sin, death, and the devil. Paul writes, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor 2:14). Now we too can live in this victory in our everyday life. At the end of our lives, we can confidently dare to take the step into eternity. We take it with Him who said, “It is finished!” and then went to be with the Father.

How can we apply, “It is finished!” in our everyday life? First, by accepting salvation if we haven’t yet done so. After everything we’ve reviewed, all that remains for me to do is to offer an invitation and a warning. The invitation is, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Heb 3:15). How long have you been hearing God’s voice? How many times has He invited you to come to Him? Please, don’t harden your heart any longer! And the warning is, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:3).

Some time ago, the engine of a fishing boat failed upstream from the mighty Niagara Falls. The boat was being carried away by the current, so the two fishermen jumped into the water and swam for shore with all their might. But the current was so strong that they would never make it. Onlookers called the rescue service, and it arrived and waited just ahead of the waterfall. The rescuers threw a life buoy on a rope to the drowning people, and it landed between them. One grasped it immediately, but the other grabbed a huge tree trunk floating past and held onto it. It’s easy to imagine how this story ends: one man was saved, and the other died.

Unfortunately, it’s similar in the spiritual realm. So many people think that they can manage on their own. They believe that they can find security, peace, and hope in good works, ideologies, philosophies, or even religions. A great many others try to forget their hopelessness in festivals, holidays, friendships, or even alcohol and drugs. But there is only one life buoy: Jesus Christ.

He Himself says, clearly and unequivocally, that there are only two options: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Take hold of the Savior’s outstretched hand in faith! God calls out with love, “My son, give me your heart” (Prov 23:26a). It is as if Christ were there on the Cross with His arms outstretched and pointing heavenward, calling us by name and inviting us, “Come to the Father! I love you; I gave my life for you. Believe in Me, and God will be your Father!”

We believers apply, “It is finished!” in everyday life by remembering this event. Those who have been saved can’t help but remember this work with gratitude, always being thankful to the Savior.

The fire department was once called to a burning house. When the firefighters arrived, they saw the neighbors having to restrain a couple to keep them from rushing back into the burning house. Their baby was still lying in her bed. A firefighter risked his life and saved the little one just before the house collapsed behind him. The baby got out with just some burns on her face. Of course, the firefighter was invited to every birthday. Even after he retired, he was invited to her graduation ceremony. When she received her diploma, she went to the microphone and asked her rescuer to join her on the stage. There she handed him her diploma, while tears of gratitude ran down the scars on her face…

It shouldn’t be any different with us as believers. The Lord saved us for all eternity. We should thank the Lord over and over again, and repeatedly praise Him. One of the ways we do this is by partaking in the Lord’s Supper. We remember what He did for us in a special way. The Lord’s command is, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24). Let’s continue to worship the Lord Jesus for what He has done!

We apply, “It is finished!” in practice by obeying His Word. Just as Jesus was careful to do the will of the Father in everything, so it should be with us too. This is the best proof that we love Him, because the Lord Himself says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).

We also apply, “It is finished!” by living in the victory that Jesus won. The victory over sin, death, and the devil is now our victory. We can claim it for ourselves. As Paul says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).

We apply, “It is finished!” by living out the love of the Lord Jesus as well. Jesus’ love for us—which cost Him His life—gives us a deep sense of security even in the midst of the worst events. The Apostle Paul joyfully wrote that nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:39). Because we have such a mighty example of love, the words of James 2:8 should also be fulfilled in us: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”

We further apply, “It is finished!” by doing the Lord’s commission. The Apostle Paul could say at the end of his life, that he had fought the good fight, kept the faith, and completed his course (2 Tim 4:7). Will we also be able to say that one day? Are we concerned about doing the works that God has prepared for us to walk in (Eph 2:10)? We will only have a full life when we are in the place and doing the works that the Lord has planned for us.

We also use, “It is finished!” in proclaiming this message. If, like John and the other disciples, we are moved by Jesus’ work, we cannot help but say with them, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Tell your family what Jesus means to you. Confess to friends, acquaintances, and neighbors that Jesus is your Savior and that He wants to save them too. Do as Paul did and don’t be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:16). The Lord was not ashamed to suffer and die for you and me!

Additionally, we apply, “It is finished!” by waiting for the Lord. The words of Hebrews 9:28 remind us of something else besides the work of redemption. It is our blessed hope and expectation: “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

The Lord died to accomplish our salvation. But I believe that He longs for the moment when He can bring His children to their eternal home, to the Father’s dwelling, because then redemption is complete in all its scope! Then the victorious call from Calvary will surely ring out for all eternity: “It is finished!” What will it be like when we can look in the eyes of the Lord Jesus for the first time? How will it be to see the wounds in His hands? Then we will praise the Lord forever, as it is written in Revelation: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 5:13).

The Lord cried, “It is finished!”

Midnight Call - 08/2021

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