We are in a terminal situation very close to the end of the dispensation of the Church. Soon, the trumpet will sound and the long wait will be over for the bride of Christ. Then, suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, the born-again Christians will be caught up and united with the heavenly Bridegroom.
Soon afterwards, when the Antichrist is revealed, he will race against time as his days will be numbered – 1 260 days to the middle of the tribulation, followed by another 1 260 days to his sudden destruction. The Bible says that “when he does arrive he must stay but a brief time” (Rev. 17:10 AB).
The consummation of this dispensation is directly linked to the critical moment almost 2 000 years ago when Jesus cried out on the cross: “It is finished!” All the demands for the salvation of sinners were met on the cross, and people everywhere were to be confronted with the choice of either accepting or rejecting it. The time for world evangelism is, however, drawing to a close. We are now rapidly heading for the day when the faithful servants of Jesus will be rewarded, while His adversaries under the leadership of the Antichrist will be judged and punished.
To be for or against Christ, and soon to be judged for all eternity in terms of your relationship with Him, calls for a clear understanding of what the atoning death of Jesus on the cross means to you. What is the full significance of His dying-word when He shouted with a loud voice: “It is finished”?
Jesus was nailed to the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of lost humanity (Is. 53:5-6). As “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6: 23), He was not only to suffer physically but also to be executed on our behalf. It was therefore only when He died that He fulfilled all the requirements for God’s plan of salvation. During those very last moments when Jesus gave up His life, He said: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit!” and then exclaimed loudly: “Tetelestai!” – “It is finished!” (Lk. 23:46; Jn. 19:30).
To fully comprehend the significance of the word tetelestai that was uttered by Jesus at the moment of His death, we should briefly investigate its applications during the first century. This word was more meaningful to those people than to us today, and we will do well to retrieve its original meaning.
In the first instance, according to the Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, the word tetelestai was used as the first word on a receipt. It therefore coveys the meaning of fully paid.
Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus actually bought you when He shed His blood and gave His life for you? Paul reminds us of this truth: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Peter said:“…you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
The testimony of the elders in heaven confirms their full realisation that they have been bought with the blood of the Lamb, when they sang: “You were slain (sacrificed) and with Your blood You purchased men unto God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9 AB).
Dear reader, do you have the assurance that the price for your sins has been fully paid? Do you comply with the condition of repentance and confession of your sins to have them forgiven? The Word of God says: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28: 13; see also 1 Jn. 1:8-9).
After conversion, we ought to walk with the Lord and keep our record clean by confessing all sins of which the Holy Spirit convicts us (1 Jn. 2:1-2). Do you have fresh date stamps on your receipt?
The Corinthians were very carnal due to a lax attitude, and this disposition seriously hampered their spiritual growth to maturity:“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?… Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3, 16).
Don’t enter the new life with a heritage of carnal attitudes and unconfessed sins. It will eventually cripple you spiritually. Jesus has paid the full price to do a complete work in your life. He wants to save and sanctify you. Don’t leave the throne of grace with hidden sins that have not been confessed and forsaken.
During the first century it was common practice to nail the charge-sheet of a prisoner to his cell-door. The offences for which he was convicted were written on the charge-sheet, as well as the penalty imposed upon him. After he served his sentence, the charge-sheet was removed from the door and cancelled by writing across it in big letters: Tetelestai (‘Fully served’). It was then given to him and nobody could ever charge him again for these offences. He had paid the price for his trespasses in full by serving the entire sentence.
In a spiritual sense all human beings are captives of Satan, “for all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). They find themselves in his death cells awaiting their trial before the great white throne where they will be condemned to eternal death. The prison master is the Devil, and no person can free himself of his own accord from this severe bondage, or from the death sentence imposed upon him.
To save lost sinners, Jesus Christ willingly served the death sentenced that has already in principle been imposed upon all sinners (Rom. 6:23). After His resurrection from the grave, He is in a position to cancel the charge-sheet of every lost sinner by writing in red letters with His blood across it: Tetelestai ‑ Sentence served.“You were dead in sins, and your sinful desires were not yet cut away. Then He gave you a share in the very life of Christ, for He forgave all your sins, and blotted out the charges proved against you, the list of his commandments which you had not obeyed. He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross” (Col. 2:13-14 LB).
The Saviour was indeed sent to earth “to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Is. 42:7 KJV).
His mission to free those who are spiritual captives of Satan, is also reiterated in Isaiah 61:“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Is. 61:1).
Have all the sins of which the Devil accuses you before the throne of God been blotted out by the blood of the Lamb? If so, nobody can ever accuse you again for those sins, no matter how serious they were, because the sentence for them has fully been served.
A third usage of the term tetelestai was related to successful military campaigns against the enemy. When a general returned from the battle-field and paraded his captives of war in the streets of Rome, he proclaimed his victory by shouting: Tetelestai… tetelestai… By this victory shout a clear statement was made that the enemy was conquered and its power broken: mission accomplished!
Although it was His dying-word on the cross, Jesus also proclaimed His victory over the enemy with the shout: Tetelestai! To die was a major victory for Jesus, “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil” (Heb. 2:14).“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).
Jesus conquered the enemy, but has not yet obliterated him. The Devil is still very active on earth, therefore we are called upon to share in the victory of Calvary and become “more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37). There is a battle to be fought and a victory to be gained.
An end-time strategy
Let us make the most of the remaining time and buy it out for serving the Lord and extending His kingdom on earth. The shadows are falling and time is rapidly running out. Like the Lord Jesus, we should also say:“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (Jn. 9:4).
The night of God’s judgements in the great tribulation is fast approaching, and there is still uncompleted business in His kingdom to be done before the trumpet sounds. The lost must be saved and Christians must be spiritually prepared for the meeting with the heavenly Bridegroom. Allow the Lord to complete His wonderful work in your life:“Christ… loved the Church and gave Himself to it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it… that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).