It is Finished: Elaborate Wedding Invitation or Eternal Accomplishment?

It is Finished: Elaborate Wedding Invitation or Eternal Accomplishment? September 21, 2018

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He yielded up His spirit.” (John 19:30, ESV)

The words “it is finished” are universally recognized as those Jesus uttered with His last bit strength at Golgotha.  Often taken for granted as merely a signal of the end of Jesus’ earthly mission, those three little words ought to be a never-ending wellspring of comfort for Christians in every generation. They are evidence that something big was completed. Anyone within hearing distance of the famous last words of Jesus (a single word in the Greek, tetelestai) would have recognized them as those commonly used on a receipt to indicate the full payment of a debt; a ransom had been paid.

Upon speaking these words, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God and wholly bore the sins of His church. He secured an eternal salvation for His bride and made absolute the coming of His eternal glorious Kingdom – all of which was predestined from the foundation of the earth.

Puritan, Matthew Henry, rightly had this to say in his commentary about the moment Jesus spoke those words:

“It is finished; that is, the counsels of the Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled. It is finished; all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished. It is finished; the ceremonial law is abolished; the substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. It is finished; an end is made of transgression by bringing in an everlasting righteousness. His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and those of his body. It is finished; the work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed.”

Yet, with all this grandeur and awe-inspiring theology, many Christians will read this and say – if not verbally, then logically: “Yes, this is true – when we add our faith.”

For them, Christ did not secure salvation for anyone on that terrible day, rather He only opened the door of salvation to be possible. The cross of Christ, while powerful, had no immediate salvific promise – only the hope thereof. While I will not deal with the logical fallacy of how Christ can die for all the sins of all men, yet some still go to hell, I do want to point out two very different interpretations of the effectual application of Jesus’s sacrifice and how we understand what was finished on the cross.

One viewpoint (of which I’m an advocate), says salvation for the elect was completely secured and fully accomplished on the cross. The Sovereignty and power of almighty God has only to grant saving faith to those whom He has already purchased, according to the purpose and counsel of His will. Because the souls have already been purchased, this will undoubtedly happen. Those bought by the blood of The Lamb will respond to the call of their God and trust their Savoir. We remain dead in our sin until God makes us alive with Him and grants us saving faith to receive the gift of grace waiting for us. Those famous last words were the sealing of something so permanent and sure that the cosmos knelt in response after Jesus said them.

The other says, salvation, while previously impossible, is now possible. The great chasm of death has been crossed, and Jesus waits, calling all to repent. Those wise enough to heed Jesus’ request of faith, respond with their free will and complete the atonement. For the individual believer, any effectual application of the “It is finished” is directly tied to the acceptance of it. Meaning, the the cross of Jesus is entirely disconnected as an agent of influence upon regeneration. The event is powerless until someone decides it to be true.

To me, this latter viewpoint makes the death of Jesus to amount to little more than an elaborate, well-meaning, open-ended wedding invitation.

I really struggle to understand how anyone who holds to penal substitutionary atonement can believe that Jesus death/sacrifice is not salvific (especially, outside the scope of time) until a human response is given. Can the temporal control the fate of the eternal? Can the vile control where/how the saving grace of God is applied? Must we complete the work He said already He finished? Stated so plainly it makes even less sense. If your soteriology clenches to this view, then Jesus’ finished achievements at Golgotha are vague at best.

For these, it’s hard to say much more was accomplished than hope. A hope, that is, that some will accept Jesus into their hearts and complete the work which He began. If that wording sounds familiar, it’s because I borrowed language from Philippians 1:6 to highlight some irony. The verse reads: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

The truth of the matter is as Jonathan Edwards once said, “the only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin which made it necessary.” We must never elevate our humanity, influence, and good will over that of Christ’s.

Remember, Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). It starts, progresses, and ends with Him. When Jesus said, “It is finished” that’s exactly what it was – finished. I am convinced that every drop of Jesus’ blood accomplished the task it set out to do – nothing was spilled in vain. Jesus’ death not an act of potential, but of categorical absoluteness. His Bride has been washed clean and Jesus is bringing her to Himself. As Jesus said in John 6, “all those that the Father has given I’ve lost none.” Nothing will prevent the Lord from taking His bride! Those last words spoken by Jesus, though brief, offer every Christian a great deal of comfort as the redemption of the God’s people, His church, is perfected. Rejoice in that!

In closing, I ask you: As you understand the atonement, what did Jesus accomplish on the cross? Your answer says much about your view of humanity, the cross, the church, and the person of Jesus.

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  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    However one understands predestination, if one believes that God is omniscient, then one should believe that He knew that His Son would not die in vain, because He knew that some people would be saved through faith in Christ.

    Is there indeed a dichotomy of “Elaborate Wedding Invitation or Eternal Accomplishment”? Could it not be both–even if cannot understand how it can be both?

    And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying,
    “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,
    and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.
    Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready [all preparations are finished]. Come to the wedding feast.”’
    –Matthew 22:1-4 (ESV)

    But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.
    And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready [all preparations are finished].’
    [. . .]
    So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’
    And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’
    And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
    For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
    –Luke 15:16-17 and 21-24 (ESV)

  • Iain Lovejoy

    On your view, Jesus’s death accomplished precisely nothing, since, so you say, the lucky few were already predestined for salvation from the foundation of the earth. It was all just an elaborate performance for the sake of appearances for the benefit of God.
    Only if Jesus’s death achieved a real change in those saved which enabled their salvation can it be said to have “accomplished” anything.

  • Fletcher

    If this interpretation is correct the other thing that is finished forever is any thought of God loving all mankind(the world). Poor reprobates under this scheme! Chosen and elected to eternal damnation before the foundation of the world! Predetermined to sin, and to burn in hell forever for the glory of God. Christ did not love them. Christ did not die for them! The gospel offer to them is insincere: There is no provision for them so no way they can be saved. Free grace? Free wrath is more like it! Well may the devil laugh! He does not need to fight to keep any lost soul- they are bound in sin by almighty divine decrees. The Achilles heel in this deterministic philosophy is the fate of the reprobate. This post, like most calvinists do either misrepresents or misunderstands Classical Armenian interpretation. If this post is correct then doesn’t it logically follow that so does eternal justification? But the scriptures are clear no man is justified before faith. The atonement May be finished but that is not the same as salvation as a whole being finished.

    • Fletcher

      Unfortunately spellchecker concerted Arminian to Armenian before I spotted the mistake! Apologies but hope you know which one I intended.

      • Jack Lee

        I’ve made the same typo mistake before too lol. Don’t sweat it 🙂

        There is an element of truth to what you are saying. The problem with your statement is that you appear to be coming from a place that says humanity is entitled to grace. The fact that God should save any is miraculous.

        “Free grace? Free wrath is more like it!”

        It is not free wrath. It is earned in that every thought of the heart of man is continually evil.

        Arminians often make the points you do and I am always reminded of the economy of God’s people prior to the coming of Christ. God chose for Himself a family (Noah) and flooded the rest of the world. He then chooses for Himself a nation (Israel) and the rest of the world is withheld is intentionally withheld the goodness of Gods salvation. This is why Paul says the following in Romans 9:12-22:

        “12 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

        19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory”

        All of us (myself included) must be careful not to elevated one attribute of God over another. HIs live is not greater than HIs wrath and vice versa. All of God’s attributes are perfect and are defined by God being God. He is the Great “I am” and there is mystery. We must not akin His decision making to be like ours. God makes no decisions. He simply is and His plan of salvation is perfect expression of His glory.

  • maninthegap

    Any theological position has to be grounded in a competent and complete exegesis of all relevant biblical texts. Quoting someone like Edwards does not count as evidence, only opinion.

    • Jack Lee

      If you follow the link in the article, it will take to an article I wrote a year so ago. It deals with this topic much more comprehensively and offers a list of verses to support God’s sovereignty in salvation and the doctrine of Limited Atonement. For easy reference, i’ll share the link and copy and paste the scripture verses for you. I hope this helps!

      Deuteronomy 29:4 – “But to this day, the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”
      Joshua 11:20 – “For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy, just as the LORD commanded Moses.”
      Isiah 53:12b – “yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercessions for the transgressors.”
      Matthew 13:10-11 – “Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
      Matthew 1:21 – “She will bear a son, and you shall his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
      Matthew 20:28 – “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”
      Matthew 22:14 – “For many are called, but few are chosen”
      Luke 13:23-24 – “And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
      John 1:12-13 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God”
      John 5:21 – “…so also the Son gives life to whom he wills”
      John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives to me will come to me. And whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
      John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him”
      John 6:65 – “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
      John 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
      John 10:15 – “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay my life down for the sheep”
      John 10:26-27 – “But you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
      John 12:39-40 – “Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart…’”
      John 13:1 – “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…”
      John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”
      John 17:9 – “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
      Acts 13:48 – “And when the gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
      Romans 9:15 – “For he says Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So, then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.”
      Galatians 1:4 – “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of the Father.”
      Ephesians 1:4 – “Even as he chose us in his before the foundation of the world”
      Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
      Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
      2 Thessalonians 2:11 – “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false”
      Titus 2:14 – “[Chris], who gave himself for us to reed us from all lawlessness…”
      Hebrews 9:28 – “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many…”
      Revelation 17:8 – “The beast that you sawwas, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.”

      • maninthegap

        Quoting translated verses out of context is a discredited hermeneutic. Translations are interpretations. Ancient documents have to be read in their original language and cultural setting. The Bible is not a laundry list of demands.

  • Theodore A. Jones

    “It is finished” only means that the sin of murdering him by crucifixion was finished.

  • Myles

    Wilful and foolish elaboration of a moronic fairy tale yields nothing.