It is Finished
After this Jesus, knowing that all things are now finished, that the scripture might be accomplished, saith, I thirst. There was set there a vessel full of vinegar: so they put a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop, and brought it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30) ASV
Not long ago I was in a discussion with a person that talked so much about the finished work of Christ on the cross, that I began to think this man was obsessed with the word “finished”. Of course Jesus did say, just before dying, while hanging on the cross, “It is finished…”. But the question is what did he mean by this expression? Did he simply mean that his life on earth was finished or should we look for something deeper? Those that believe in the forensic view of the atonement, with few exceptions, believe that Jesus was making reference to the atonement and his death on the cross was the fulfillment of the atonement. However, there is a problem with this view. The problem is that in order for the atonement to be fulfilled, the blood of the sacrifice had to be offered up to God. Now the writer of the Book of Hebrews seemed to indicate that the blood of Christ was offered up to God in heaven after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the Father (Heb 9:11,12).
This would indicate that the atonement was not complete until Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to the Father where he offered the sacrifice of his blood for the sins of the world. This would also create some problems in interpreting “It is finished” as a reference to the atonement. If the atonement was accomplished at the cross, the resurrection would be reduced to nothing more than evidence that Jesus is the Christ. This would seems to give it less importance to it than a number of clear statements in Scripture. (Rom 4:25, 2Cor 5:15, 1Cor 15:17).
I think a far better interpretation of “It is finished” is that the death of Christ fulfilled the Old Testament or covenant scriptures and the expression “It is finished” was used by Jesus in reference to the fulfillment and end of the law of old covenant. John also uses this fulfillment of the scripture as a proof that Jesus was the Christ. This seem to be indicate, by the context starting with verse 28, of chapter 19 of John, where the same Greek word is used for finished as used in the expression, “finished”, in verse v30.
To expand on this interpretation you could say that at the death of Christ the Old Testament scriptures were fulfilled in two ways. The first being that everything they predicted was fulfilled about the death of the Christ including the small detail of him being given vinegar to drink. The second is, they were fulfilled in the since they had served their purpose to bring the Jews to faith in Christ (Gal 3:24,25). The apostle Paul said, “that Christ is the end of the Law to those that believe” (Rom 10:4). Christ told the disciples that the Law would be enforced until everything would be fulfilled.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt 5: 17,18).
Please take note that the word until specifies a time period in which the Law of Moses would remain. The condition for its repeal was that it be fulfilled. Jesus said it was fulfilled and therefore, finished on the cross at his death. The writer of Hebrews said a New Testament or covenant is ratified by the death of the one making it. In the death of Christ, God set aside the old and established a new (Heb 9:11-22, 10:9).
When Christ died on the cross the Law died with him and every believer who has died with Christ also died to the Law with him (Rom 7:1-6, Eph 2:14-18). Christians now lives by the new law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus and are no longer in any fashion under the old Law for they died with Christ to it. “It is finished”.