What Was Really “Finished”?

How biblically accurate is the common interpretation of Christ’s statement, “It is finished!”?

Some Christians frequently quote Christ’s words on the cross, “It is finished,” when referring to the salvation process. To reinforce this interpretation, they also support it with the statement, “It is done.”

In using these two short sentences (“It is finished” and “It is done”), they affirm that in the salvation process, there is nothing more that we humans (or even God) could ever add, or should ever do, because everything is allfinished” and all has already been “done” for us by Christ Himself.

More specifically, this interpretation also focuses on in the belief that there is even no more need to still keep any of God’s laws and commandments, because that would be tantamount to simply adding more “works” to that which is already finished. Acts of further obedience to God’s laws is viewed to directly contradict the belief that salvation should be based on “faith alone” and nothing more. Thus, adherents to this type of teaching confidently keep on celebrating their finishedvictory” in Christ at every worship opportunity. This system of belief is somewhat related to the popular teaching on “Once Saved, Always Saved,” which has already been addressed on this website.

Many websites in the Internet on the topic of “It is finished” support these stated ideas. According to one article, Jesus does not need your “help” because, supposedly, “it is [all] finished.”

But what does the Bible really say? And what did Christ really mean when He said those words?

It is time we analyze these beliefs from the perspective of the whole biblical teachings and what Christ actually meant, remembering that there should never be any contradiction in Scriptures since it is authored by a perfectly intelligent and consistent God.

The verses in question

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
~John 19:28-30

[Technical details about the words: “fulfilled” and “finished” (including use of the Greek word “tetelestai”) are presented in Appendix 1. However, these three words all basically mean the same time thing.]

Two principles of biblical interpretation

In Theology, there are two commonly applied fundamental principles in Biblical Interpretations. One is preferred, while the other is criticized. While these two principles (represented by two technical Greek words) almost sound similar and are spelled almost alike, their meanings are very diametrically opposite from each other. First, let us define their differences.

Simple definition of the two terms — Exegesis versus Eisegesis

Exegesis, means deducing or extracting from Scriptures itself through approved biblical principles what is actually meant by the subject in question, considering background and context. This approach to biblical interpretation is OBJECTIVE.

Eisegesis, is putting one’s own interpretation into what the Scriptures is supposed to mean. This approach to biblical interpretation is personal opinion and SUBJECTIVE.

A detailed definition on these two words are found in Appendix 2.

The objective and correct interpretation — exegesis

The direct and immediate context of Christ’s statement obviously refers to the end of His own physical life, wherein He has now fulfilled prophecies about Him and completed His Father’s commands.

Logically and proximately, Christ Himself stated these in His long and agonizing prayer to The Father in the Garden of Gethsemane which ended just minutes before He was arrested that night.

That long prayer is recorded in the whole chapter of John 17:1-26. Specifically, as stated in John 17:4, He Himself said, “I have finished the work” which you gave me to do.”

Included also among what He obviously meant were:

  • The proclamation of the true Gospel Message of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:1, 14-15)
  • The call of disciples as the core of the new Church and its message (Matthew 10:1-8)
  • Offering His life in death as payment for mankind’s sins. (Hebrews 9:12,14,28, etc.)

False assumptions that contradict clear Scriptures

Please remember that whether at the cross or in the writings of the original apostles after Christ’s death, there has never been any mention of abolishing the Ten Commandments.

Classic examples of eisegesis — adding false teachings:

1. That all animal sacrifices are supposedly finished and abolished forever at the cross

Rebuttal: Please read the future prophecies about the physical resurrection and the restoration of the nation of Israel in Ezekiel 37:1-28. Then, starting in Ezekiel chapter 40, he [Ezekiel] was also shown a vision of a future temple to be built in Israel, complete with specified dimensions, and corresponding altars for sacrificing again animals.

This temple should not be confused with that very great Holy City, New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven after the millennium (Revelation 21 and 22).

Starting in Ezekiel 40:39 there is mention of tables for burnt, sin, and guilt offerings. In Ezekiel 45:15, it mentions about a lamb for meat offering, burnt offering, and peace offering. The description for the various offerings continue on to Ezekiel 46.

2. That Satan’s power is “finished” and his head is now crushed under the heels of our Savior, and that the Devil has no more influence on us, because he is now defeated

Rebuttal: I hope we are not too naïve to buy into this great Satanic deception and lie. One of the greatest enemy tactics is to make his opponents believe that he does not exist, that he is not a threat, or to be invisible so as not to be detected and defeated.

These blatantly false claims of Satan’s defeat obviously did not happen at the cross, but Satan’s final defeat is still part of God’s long-range time-table (Revelation 20:1-3).

The Bible is abundantly clear that the whole world still (until today) lies under the power, control, and influence of the wicked one [Satan]. Just simply open your eyes and ears [and look at the daily news] to know about all the multiple evils that is happening in all aspects and areas of human society in this world today (2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 6:11,12; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9).

3. That we have nothing more to do, or to add, because Christ said, “it is finished

Rebuttal: [The apostle Paul said] “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Sacrifices now go beyond mere animals, but to us humans, in living form, and accompanied by our service to God.

The apostle Paul also admonishes us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). [“Work out” is something we have to seriously do.”]

The apostle Paul further admonished us to be always in a battle-ready preparedness because we are in an ongoing battle where we have to fight and win over invisible evil forces (Ephesians 6:10-18).

4. That all of God’s laws and commandments (including the Ten Commandments) are supposedly finished, ended, abolished, and done away, when Christ died

Rebuttal to this BIG false claimChrist Himself said, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than His words to pass away. [All humans can clearly see and testify that Heaven and Earth still exists to this very day.]

Christ said: “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17). Notice the New Living Translation rendering:

But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force in even the smallest point. It is stronger and more permanent than heaven and earth.
~Luke 16:17, NLT

Christ also said:

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled … unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
~Matthew 5:17-20

The statement “…till all is fulfilled” should not be taken out of context. “All” does not end with the fulfillment of the crucifixion. Rather, in God’s great plan of giving all humanity the chance to be offered salvation (John 3:17; 1Timothy 2:4; 2Peter 3:9), many prophecies still need fulfillment. Among these are: the binding of Satan, the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth, and the work of God in offering salvation to as many humans since the creation of mankind.

God’s law was prophesied to be internalized in us, NOT “abolished.”

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers… But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…
~Jeremiah 31:31-34

Those very same promises about internalizing God’s Law in the Old Testament were repeated at least twice (NOT abolished) in the New Testament.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
~Hebrews 8:10

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more [Because Christ took them away and paid for them through His death].
~Hebrews 10:16

Those who practice “LAWLESSNESS” will surprisingly, shockingly, and embarrassingly be woefully REJECTED by Christ at His coming!

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
~Matthew 7:21-23

Lawlessness” comes from the Greek compound word “anomia” which literally means “no law” or “without law” and refers to those who feel liberated from still obeying God’s laws, or who believed that God’s laws are abolished and done away with. The technical Greek term for those people are “Antinomians.”

5. Claim that “faith alone” is enough for God to save us — nothing more to add

Rebuttal: What does the Bible say about those whose beliefs are based on “faith alone”?

Faith without works is dead.

What does it profit… if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is deadBut someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
~James 2:14-26

Biblical salvation is actually a PROCESSnot an instant event

Please notice the four steps:

  1. First step is the Special Calling from the Father (John 6:44; 65; Romans 8:30 summarizes the process).
  2. Second step: God’s forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice is next in the salvation process (Romans 5:9-10). Christ’s shed blood and death paid for our sins. That is called “Justification” (Romans 5:9). But there’s more.
  3. Third step: After being forgiven and cleansed, one has to live a clean and obedient life through the help of God’s Spirit, which is called “Sanctification” (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; etc.). Violating God’s Laws and Commandments again after being forgiven and cleansed is compared to a dog going back to eat his own vomit, or a sow going back to the muddy wallow (2 Peter 2:22).
  4. Fourth step: IF we faithfully live a sanctified life and do our best to overcome trials and temptations to the end (Matthew 24:13), the final step will be our “Glorification” when God will transform our mortal bodies into immortal spirit life (Romans 8:30; 1 John 3:1-2; Daniel 12:3)

Based on these many clear Scriptures, which we should not ignore if we are to “live by every word of God” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4), it is very obvious that we really have a part to play in the Salvation Process. God will not give eternal life to rebellious and carnal-minded humans. The false teaching that we do not have to do anything more because “all is finished,” is simply a SATANIC Deception. Because Satan himself believes there is a God, but he will NOT obey.

That is why the apostle Paul admonishes us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12). If we faithfully do all these, Christ Himself will use us to help administer and rule in the soon-coming Kingdom on this earth (Revelation 5:10), because He has judged that we are indeed among those: Called, Chosen, and Faithful (Revelation 17:14b).

Practical common-sense warnings

Analogy of a criminal who was granted a presidential pardon

The criminal who was graciously and mercifully granted Presidential pardon does not have the license, right, or liberty to go out again and rampantly break laws and maintain his old criminal life! This plain example should be very obviously clear to all Christians.

Listen to the warning of Jude (half-brother Christ):

I say this because some godless people have wormed their way in among you, saying that God’s forgiveness allows us to live immoral lives. The fate of such people was determined long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
~Jude 1:4, NLT

When God’s Laws and Commandments are ignored, rejected, and considered abolished, there remains no more guide for moral conduct. The result is obviously shameful immorality.

Conclusion

When Christ said, “It is finished” He was clearly referring to what the Father assigned Him to do on His mission on this earth (John 17:4).

Definitely, Christ never meant that we will no longer do anything with regard to our salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Clearly, He did not mean to abolish His own laws and commandments (the violations of which cost His precious life), because of the irrevocable law which states that: “the wages [penalty] of sin is death” — Romans 6:23; just so we can blatantly ignore and violate them all over again? [Learn from the simple analogy of the pardoned criminal, who has no right to become criminal again.] (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-27)

Therefore, let us be very careful NOT to be deceived by Satan, nor follow in the footsteps of his followers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). They all profess to believe that there is God, but refuse to obey any of His laws and commandments. That’s the sure pathway to eternal destruction — not salvation.

Appendix 1

The words “fulfilled” (G5048  teleioo {tel-i-o’-o}) and “finished” (G5055  teleo {tel-eh’-o}) in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, both have the same general meaning, as also defined in other Bible Dictionaries; such as: Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words; or the Computer BibleWorks Software.

The NIV Exhaustive Concordance by Goodrick & Kohlenberger; while having a different numbering system, show that “fulfilled” numbered G5464, and “finished” also numbered G5464; clearly confirms that both words mean basically the same thing.

Some websites dealing on the topic “It is Finished” make a big deal about the Greek wordfinished” stating that it should be translated “tetelestai” which on closer examination mean basically the same as already previously stated in other authoritative reference materials. But even if they put a little twist and emphasis on what Christ said, let us remember that Christ did not speak in the Greek language during the crucifixion; thus, never exactly uttered “tetelestai.” Rather, He spoke in Aramaic (Mark 15:34), since what he said in Aramaic had to be translated into Greek.

Appendix 2

Technical definition of the terms: Exegesis and Eisegesis (from Wikipedia):

Exegesis (/ˌɛksəˈdʒiːsɪs/; from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι, “to lead out”) is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible; however, in modern usage “biblical exegesis” is used for greater specificity to distinguish it from any other broader critical text explanation.

The terms exegesis and hermeneutics have been used interchangeably.

Eisegesis (/ˌaɪsəˈdʒiːsəs/; from the Greek preposition εἰς “into” and the ending from the English word exegesis, Greek ἐξήγησις, which in turn is derived from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”)[1] is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. This is commonly referred to as reading into the text.[2] The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda. Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discoverable meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective. The term “eisegete” is often used in a mildly derogatory fashion.

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4 Comments

  1. Macario Cadatal

    What is applicable to the Ekklesia (“the NEW MAN) and commissioned to proclaim since 63AD till Christ 2nd coming is “the Mystery” message, the last “matured” revealed knowledge to Paul by the Lord in 63AD.

    • Edmond Macaraeg

      Hello Macario Cadatal,
      You mentioned about a certain “Mystery” message which you said was “commissioned to be proclaimed since 63 AD.” I believe that information only came from one website, but not generally recognized or endorsed by most theologians. I am also uncertain as to HOW that concept you brought up addresses the topics covered in the article, “What Was Really Finished?” Since your comment is vague, I also cannot fully address what you mean, and it has taken me quite some time to decipher what really is the issue you are driving at? Sorry, I still don’t get it.

  2. Danilo Dayot

    Hi! Sir, regarding: The regulations of worship to an earthly sanctuary mentioned in Hebrews 9 which were a symbol to come. My Question is: Were the sacrifices and offerings a symbol of the priest paying the penalty of sins?

    • Edmond Macaraeg

      Hi Danilo,
      Sorry for this delayed reply. You asked if “the sacrifices and offerings of the priest paying the penalty of sins?” Hebrews 10:4 says, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.” Therefore, those ceremonies were only symbolic, pointing to the ultimate sacrifice which our Savior paid for the sins of all mankind.

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