The Finished Work of Christ

The Finished Work of Christ

Jesus, who had enjoyed perfect, uninterrupted fellowship 

with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit from eternity, 

cried out from the cross, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus, who spoke only those words which He heard from the Father,

who did only those works which the Father did, who rose 

before daylight to commune with the Father, was forsaken by the Father.

Why? Because on the cross Jesus became a sin offering for us: 

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21)

He bore our sins in His body on the cross (I Peter 2:24)

Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, offered Himself as the holy Sacrifice for the sins of the world. In bearing our sin, He also bore the penalty and curse of sin. All the wrath of God, the eternal judgment of God aroused against sinners, came upon Christ. In a finite space of time, Jesus absorbed into His infinite being all the sin of humanity and the eternal wrath of God. This is the terrible cup of judgment in anticipation of which Jesus had sweated drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.

As Jesus hung on the cross He also experienced the result of sin — complete alienation from God the Father. His cry expresses horror at this which He had never known — the death of communion with the other members of the Godhead. There is a sacred mystery here. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one God existing from eternity as three distinct Persons yet indivisible, sharing one essence. The unity of God cannot be divided.  Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, cannot be separated from the other members — He is one with them in essence and nature.

Yet in some way beyond our understanding, as Jesus bore the sin of humanity as a sin offering, His Father turned away from the sin offering and Jesus experienced this loss of communion. He was supremely sensitive to the presence of His Father, having enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship with Him from eternity. Even in His incarnation, He experienced intimate communion with God the Father. When that communion was interrupted, Jesus perceived the distance, the separation. We cannot imagine the anguish this caused Him.

However, even in this unfathomable alienation from God and the hellish alone-ness which this abandonment produced, Jesus did not abandon faith in His Father. He still cried out, “My God, My God.” God was still His God, still His hope and refuge.

Rejected by the world, abandoned by His friends, forsaken by God and enduring the wrath of God, Jesus hung on the cross bearing humanity’s separation from God. That should have been our just sentence, alienated from God for all eternity in hell. But Jesus bore it for us, in our place so that the Father will not turn His back on us.

However, in the final hours of the cross, Jesus sensed the satisfaction of the Father with the atoning sacrifice. He had borne the sin and guilt of humanity. He had borne the judgmental wrath of God poured out on the holy sin offering. He experienced the separation of humanity from God. He had offered the atoning sacrifice which was ordained from the foundation of the world.

Now He takes a sip of sour wine to clear His throat and He cries out:

‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30).

Realizing that His work is done, He shouts, It is finished! These were not words of resignation or defeat. In the language of the Gospel writer, It is finished is one word — Tetelestai — which means accomplished, complete, fulfilled.

It is the cry of victory: Finished! Atonement for sin has been accomplished, humanity is redeemed from the curse and penalty of sin. Complete! Wrath is appeased, Scripture fulfilled. Satan is defeated, his entangling enslavement of humanity is destroyed. Jesus came to accomplish His Father’s will and that redeeming work was perfectly accomplished on the cross:

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, But through His own blood, He entered the holy place, once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebr. 9:12). For all time, for all sin and for all sinners, the blood of Christ was shed, reaching back in time to the Garden of Eden and forward to the last sinner who will repent before time ends. The blood was shed, the offering for sin was complete. It is a finished work, perfect for all time. There is nothing we must add to it. We are reconciled to God as we turn from our sin and place our faith in Jesus Christ, the holy, atoning sacrificed Lamb and risen Lord. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Calvary was not a defeat followed by the triumph of Easter morning.

The cross is the triumph proclaimed on Easter morning.

What is the result of this finished, complete sacrifice?

1. We are forgiven of our sin, cleansed from its pollution, released from its power.

In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us (Ephesians 1:7,8a).

Jesus bore the sin that separated sinners from a holy God and He received the consequences due to sinners. Now, those who repent of sin and place their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus are redeemed from sin’s power and penalty, forgiven of sin and cleansed of sin’s polluting presence in our lives. 

The Apostle John reminds us, The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. … if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:7,9). As we confess our sins to God, trusting in the blood of Jesus shed on our behalf, we are not only forgiven of sin but also cleansed of its guilt and purified of the pollution that sin produces. This cleansing is the beginning of the new work of holiness, purity and wholeness in the heart of the believer.

We are also redeemed from sin’s power. Redemption means to buy back, to ransom. Paul reminds us, that Jesus rescued us from the domain (jurisdiction) of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Through the blood of Christ we have been purchased, rescued by God from sin’s destruction and from satanic control over our lives. Now we have the power, in Christ, to refuse sin. Though we still sin and deal with the consequences of our sin, the power of sin to control our lives is broken by the greater power of Christ’s blood shed on our behalf.

God’s forgiveness is so complete that He says, I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34). This does not mean that God limits His perfect knowledge of all truth. Rather, He chooses not to recall our sin or hold it against us. He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). This is a way of saying that our sins, and the resulting condemnation and punishment, are removed an eternal distance from us. Sin, when forgiven by God, can no more come back upon us than east can meet west.

2 . We are reconciled to God.  

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). 

We are now reconciled to God because that which separated us from Him, our sin, has been removed by the sacrifice of Jesus, the holy Lamb of God. This reconciliation is possible because God counted our sins, not against us, but against Christ our Sin-Bearer. This is symbolized by the tearing of the veil in the temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. Only the High Priest could enter once a year. But when Jesus died, the veil was torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying the access of forgiven, reconciled sinners into the presence of the Holy God.

3. We are justified by God.

Isaiah, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, prophesied that the sin of humanity would be transferred to Messiah resulting in the justification of the sinner, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities …  (Isaiah 53:11).  

To be justified is to be declared not guilty, declared to be just. Jesus was, in the terminology of the Old Testament, a guilt offering. Under the Old Covenant sacrificial system, a person who had sinned would bring the appropriate animal — a goat or lamb — to the priest and confess his sin. The priest would then lay his hand on the head of the animal and by that act symbolically transfer the sin from the person to the animal. The animal would then be put to death, as if it were paying the penalty for the sin of the man or woman. It was a substitute for the sinner.

Those offerings could not cleanse anyone of sin. They provided a covering for the sinner until the time when the true, holy Lamb of God would be slain for sinners. In the fulness of time, Jesus was born, offered Himself as the holy Sacrifice, the holy Substitute for sinners and God transferred the sin of humanity to the person of Jesus, as the Apostle Peter testifies, And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (I Peter 2:24).

We are now justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

How can a just God declare a sinner to be just? Only because on the cross, Jesus, the perfectly just Redeemer, carried our sin and the judgment and the penalty which that sin incurred. When we turn from our sin and place our faith in Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior, God, then, is able to be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). What an incredible transaction! God, the holy and righteous Judge, offers through the blood sacrifice of Christ to make covenant with the forgiven sinner, declares the forgiven sinner to be just and righteous and sees the forgiven sinner as just and righteous. 

God takes away the filthy garments of our sin and, as Isaiah prophesied, He has clothed me in the garments of salvation. He has covered me with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).

4. We share the righteousness of Christ.

God not only declares us to be righteous with the righteousness of Christ. More than this, He progressively transforms us in the righteousness of Christ.

He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). On the cross, Jesus took our sin so that we might share His righteousness. He was made sin with our sinfulness so that we might be made righteous with His righteousness. This is not merely a declaration of God — that we are righteous. It is also a gradual work of transformation in us. We share the righteousness of Christ and are being changed into His righteous image.

This transformation will not be completed in this life but God has promised to perfectly fulfill that which He has begun in us, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). We share the righteousness of Christ and are being progressively changed into His righteous likeness.

5. We are spiritually regenerated as new creations in Christ, children of God. 

For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God (I Peter 1:23).

Jesus said, Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again (or from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). When the life giving word of the cross penetrates our hearts and enables us to turn from our sin and place our faith in Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, the Lord regenerates our dead spirit. We are born anew by the power of God.

This new birth results in new creation: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17). 

We are new creations with a new nature conformed to a divine pattern and energized by the life of Christ in us. Forgiven of sin, declared to be just before God, we are new creations, children of God progressively being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

6. We have peace with God.

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)

God will not make peace with sin. Only when sin is dealt with — and it was on the cross in Jesus — then God can make peace with us: For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness (of God) to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:19,20). 

7. We share in the life of Christ.

Jesus died our death that we might share His life: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). 

Abundant life means sharing in the life of Jesus — a present reality and a future hope. To share the life of Christ is to share eternal life, unending life with Him: Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24).

8. We share in the glory of Christ.

Jesus endured our shame that we might share His glory. In the hours before the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father: The glory which You have given Me I have given to them (John 17:22). We have been invited to share in the glorious life of Christ. But we must remember that the pathway to glory, for Jesus, was the way of the cross. The invitation to share His glory is the invitation to walk with Him in the way of humble, sacrificial service.

But there is also a process of transformation in glory, But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). As we walk and serve with Christ, we are being transformed in conformity with His glory.

There is also a future fulfillment in glory. The Apostle Paul was so confident of our future glory that he speaks of it as an accomplished fact, And these whom He justified, He also glorified (Romans 8:30). Glorified refers to the future completion of God’s salvation purpose in our lives — all sin and corruption removed not only from our lives but also from the entire universe while we enjoy unending communion in the infinitely creative, glorious presence of God. Though this is a future reality, it is so certain that Paul uses a past tense verb, These whom He justified, He also glorified.

9. We are translated into the kingdom of God.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:13,14).

Our sin not only separated us from God but placed us within the dominion, the jurisdiction of Satan’s rule. Now, forgiven of our sin and reconciled to God, we have been brought into the dominion, the merciful rule which is called the kingdom of God. Satan no longer has rulership over our lives. Jesus does. It is a rule of grace, mercy and truth.

10. We are delivered from this present age and from this world system.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Galatians 1:3,4).

The Greek word age refers not simply to a period of time but also to the values that define that time. Why do we need to be delivered from this age? Because it is dominated by evil, because it is temporary, corrupt and dying and we are of another age that is incorruptible and everlasting.  

Jesus spoke of this present age as something that is coming to an end, impermanent, So shall it be at the end of the age (Matthew 13:49). This age is coming to an end because it is evil. It is evil because it is dominated by Satan, who is the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) in the sense that his corrupt, evil values have been incarnated into political and economic systems, artistic expressions, cultural customs, imaginations, philosophies and false religions.  

God’s program is not merely to depose Satan but to terminate the age that has been corrupted by him. As long as this age continues, Satan will be the ruler of this age. When the age terminates, Satan will no longer rule. This is the reason Satan does everything in his power to prevent the present age from coming to an end. He persecutes the church because the church is God’s instrument to proclaim the good news of the inbreaking kingdom of God as the Lord brings this age to its conclusion.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of those who have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come (6:5). God wants to spoil our taste for the powers of this age, wants us to taste something so totally superior that we will never again desire the powers of this age. Though we have not been physically removed from this age, we have been rescued from its domination through the cross of Christ.

The world has not yet been put to death but in Christ our affection for the world has been put to death.This does not mean that the world no longer has any influence on us but we are no longer living under its rule and are able to resist conformity to its values, having been translated out of the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).

Paul reminds us, For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). The corollary to being dead to the world is that we are alive in Christ. The cross of Jesus has come between the world and the Christian and from that cross flows the grace that enables us to live in forgiven, reconciled, peace with God.  Dead to this dying age and world, we are alive in Christ forevermore.

Study Questions

1. What did Jesus mean when He shouted, It is finished?

2. What are some of the results of the finished work of Christ on the cross?