So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit (John 19:30)

Imagine looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre museum. Would you think of adding more brush strokes to it? Of course not! It was done by a master, so what could you possibly add to the painting to improve it?

In the same way, that is how we are to look at Jesus’ work on the cross. He cried out, “It is finished!” You cannot complete a completed work. You cannot finish a finished work. Our salvation is won. Our sins are all forgiven. We are made forever righteous by His blood. Christ paid completely and perfectly for our total forgiveness, righteousness and every blessing!

Tetelestai is the Greek statement translated as “it is finished.“ In fact, these three words, “It is finished,” come from one Greek word teleo. The word means, “It is finished, it stands finished and it will always be finished!”It is the victorious proclamation Jesus made fromthe cross to announce the fact that the entire work ofredemption had been accomplished. He had finished thework of offering Himself for the sins of men; the purposefor which God sent Him into the world. It is an announcementthat the plan of salvation stands complete and will becomplete forever.

The term tetelestai carries four major historical applications in its emphasis.

  • Firstly, tetelestai, when used commercially, speaks of a payment that has been made in full and even overpaid. Ancient receipts for taxes have been found on papyri and written across them is this single Greek word which means “paid in full.” It was also used when a commodity was bought with coins of precious metal. The coins were weighed at the scales to determine their value. When the value exceeded the cost, the statement “tetelestai” was made to indicate that the payment exceeds the cost.
  • In the religious context, it carries in it the idea of fulfilling one’s task and religious obligations (John 17:4). The death of Christ on the cross has completely fulfilled every obligation that God demands of man.
  • The word has also been applied militarily by the soldiers of the Roman Empire. It was a term to denote an ultimate victory in a decisive battle that precedes the end of a war. The end of a war would be announced by the proclamation When the Roman Centurion heard Jesus made this statement at an hour that seemed to be one of defeat, he concluded that he was standing in the presence of the Son of God. He had witness heroic feats in battle as a Roman soldier, but never had he witnessed such an attitude of triumph in the face of death (Hebrew 2:14).
  • In eschatology, tetelestai refers to the assured fulfillment of prophecy. Every prophetic utterance made in the Old Testament that carried with it a predictive element of foretelling was met in the four Gospels, in the earthly ministry of Jesus, by the phrase “and it came to pass.” Nothing was left wanting. Everything that the prophets had foretold had been realized (Luke 24:25-27).

Today, it is not our works that will bring us the blessings. It is Christ’s finished work. Christian living is not about doing, but believing in His finished work. Under the law, we must do. Under grace, it is done!

The work is finished. The victory is won. Our enemies have been made His footstool. Our blessings have been bought by His blood! Live life knowing that there is nothing for you to do—only believe! It is finished!