“It Is Finished”
A sermon by C.H. Spurgeon on December 1, 1861
at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England
as published in
Discovering The Power Of The Cross Of Christ
Compiled and Edited by Lance Wubbels
Emerald Books, Lynnwood, WA
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished:
and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. John 19:30
Let Us Hear the Text and Understand It
The Son of God has been made man. He has lived a life of perfect virtue and of total self-denial. He has been all that life despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His enemies have been legion. His friends have been few, and those few faithless. He is at last delivered over into the hands of them who hate Him. He is arrested while in the act of prayer and is arraigned before both the spiritual and the temporal courts. He is robed in mockery and then unrobed in shame. He is set upon His throne in scorn and then tied to the pillar in cruelty. He is declared innocent and yet He is delivered up by the Judge who should have preserved Him from His persecutors. He is dragged through the streets of that Jerusalem that had killed the prophets and would now crimson itself with the blood of the prophets’ Master. He is brought to the cross and nailed fast to the cruel wood. The sun burns Him. His cruel wounds increase the fever. God forsakes Him. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” contains the concentrated anguish of the world.
While He hands there in mortal conflict with sin and Satan, His heart is broken, His limbs are dislocated. Heaven fails Him, for the sun is veiled in darkness. Earth forsakes Him, for “all the discip;les forsook him, and fled” (Matt 26:56). He looks everywhere, and there is none to help. He casts His eye around, and there is no man who can share His toil. He treads the winepress alone, and of the people there is none with Him. On, on He goes, steadily determined to drink the last dregs of the cup that must not pass from Him if His Father’s will be done. At last He cries, “It is finished,” and He gives up the ghost. Hear it, Christians, hear this shout of triumph as it rings today with all the freshness and force that it had centuries ago! Hear it from the sacred Word and from the Savior’s lips, and may the Spirit of God open your ears that you may hear as the learned and understand what you hear!
1. What did the Savior mean when He said, “It is finished?” He meant, first of all, that the types, promises, and prophecies were now fully accomplished in Him. Those who are acquainted with the original Greek will find that the words “It is finished” occur twice within three verses. In the twenty-either verse, the word is translated in our version “accomplished,” but there it stands: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now finished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” And then He afterward said, “It is finished.” This leads us to see His meaning very clearly, that all the Scripture was now fulfilled when He said, “It is finished.”
The whole book, from the first to the last, in both the law and the prophets, was finished in Him. There is not a single jewel of promise, from the first emerald that fell on the threshold of Eden to the last sapphire stone of Malachi, that was not set in the breastplate of the true High Priest. Nay, there is not a type, from the red heifer downward to the turtledove, from the hyssop upward to Solomon’s temple itself, that was not fulfilled in Him. There was not a prophecy, whether spoken on Chebar’s bank or on the shores of Jordon, not a dream of wise men, whether they had received it in Babylon, or in Samaria, or in Judea, that was not now fully wrought out in Christ Jesus.
And what a wonderful thing it is, that a mass of promises and prophecies and types, apparently so heterogeneous, should all be accomplished in one Person! Take away Christ for one moment, and I will give the Old Testament to any wise man living and say to him, “Take this as a challenge. Go home and construct in your imagination an ideal character who shall exactly fit all that is herein foreshadowed. Remember, he must be a prophet like Moses and yet a champion like Joshua; he must be an Aaron and a Melchizedek; he must be both David and Solomon, Noah and Jonah, Judah and Joseph. Nay, he must not only be the lamb that was slain and the scapegoat that was not slain, the turtledove that was dipped in blood and the priest who slew the bird, but he must also be the altar, the tabernacle, the mercy seat, and the shewbread.”
To puzzle this wise man further, we remind him of prophecies so apparently contradictory that one would think they never could meet in one man. “All kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him” (Psalm 71:11); and yet, “He is despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3). He must begin by showing a man born of a virgin mother: “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son” (Isa. 7:14). He must be a man without spot or blemish but yet one upon whom the Lord shall place the iniquities of us all. He must be a glorious One, a Son of David, but yet a root out of a dry ground. Now, I say it boldly, if all the greatest intellects of all the ages could set themselves to work out this problem, to invent another key to the types and prophecies, they could not do it. I see you wise men, poring over these hieroglyphs. One suggests one key, and it opens two or three of the figures, but you cannot proceed, for the next one puts you at a nonplus. Another learned man suggests another clue, but that fails most where it is most needed, and another, and another. Thus, these wondrous hieroglyphs traces of old by Moses in the wilderness must be left unexplained, till one comes forward and proclaims, “The cross of Christ and the Son of God incarnate.” Then the whole is clear, so that he who runs may read and a child may understand. Blessed Savior! In You we see everything fulfilled that God spoke of old by the prophets. In You we discover everything carried out in substance that God had set for us in the dim mists of sacrificial smoke. Glory be to Your name!
2. But the words have richer meaning. Not only were all types and prophecies and promises thus finished in Christ, but all the typical sacrifices of old Jewish law were now abolished as well as explained. They were finished in Him. Will you imagine for a minute the saints in heaven looking down upon what was done on earth – Abel and his friends who had long ago before the flood been sitting in the glories above. They watch while God lights star after star in heaven. Promise after promise flashes light upon the darkness of earth. They see Abraham come, and they look in the person of Isaac. They gaze just as the angels do, desiring to look into the mystery. From the times of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they see altars smoking, recognition of the fact that man is guilty, and the spirits before the throne say, “Lord, when will sacrifices finish? When will blood no more be shed?” The offering of bloody sacrifices soon increases. It is now carried on by men ordained for that purpose. Aaron and the high priests and the Levites, every morning and every evening offer a lamb, while great sacrifices are offered on special occasions. Bullocks groan, rams bleed, the necks of doves are wrung, and all the while the saints are crying, “O Lord, how long?” Year after year the high priest goes within the veil and sprinkles the mercy seat with blood. The next year sees him do the like, and the next, and again, and again, and again. David offers hecatombs, Solomon slaughters tens of thousands, Hezekiah offers rivers of oil, Josiah gives thousands of the fat of fed beasts, and the spirits of the just say, “Will the sacrifice never be finished? Must there always be a remembrance of sin? Will not the last High Priest soon come? Not yet, not yet ye spirits of the just, for after the captivity the slaughter of victims still remains.
But lo, He comes! Gaze more intently than before. He comes who is to close the line of priests! There He stands, clothed not now with linen ephod, not with ringing bells, nor with sparkling jewels on His breastplate. But arrayed in human flesh He stands; His cross is His altar, His body and His soul the victim, Himself the priest. And lo! Before His God He offers up His own soul within the veil of thick darkness that has covered Him from the sight of men. Presenting His own blood, He enters within the veil, springles it there, and coming forth from the midst of the darkness, He looks down on the astonished earth and upward to expectant heaven and cries, “It is finished! It is finished!” That for which you looked so long is fully achieved and perfected forever.
3. The Savior meant, we doubt not, that in this moment His perfect obedience was finished. It was necessary so that man might be saved, that the law of God should be kept, for no man can see God’s face unless he is perfect in righteousness. Christ undertook to keep God’s law for His people, obey its every mandate, and preserve its every statute intact. Throughout the first years of His life He privately obeyed, honoring His father and mother. During the next three years He publicly obeyed God, spending and being spent in His service, till if you would know what a man would be whose life was wholly conformed to the law of God, you may see him in Christ.
My dear Redeemer and my Lord,
I read my duty in Thy word,
But in Thy life the law appears
Drawn out in living characters.
It needed nothing to complete the perfect virtue of life but the entire obedience of death. He who would serve God not only must be willing to give all his soul and his strength while he lives but also must stand prepared to resign life when it shall be for God’s glory. Our perfect Substitute put the last stroke upon His work by dying, and therefore He claims to be absolved from further debt, for “it is finished.” Yes, glorious Lamb of God, it is finished! You have been tempted in all points like as we are, yet have You sinned in none! It was finished, for the last arrow out of Satan’s quiver had been shot at You. The last blasphemous insinuation, the last wicked temptation, has spent its fury on You. The prince of this world had surveyed You from head to foot, within and without, but he had found nothing in You. Now Your trial is over. You have finished the work that Your Father gave you to do, and so finished it that hell itself cannot accuse You of a flaw. Now, looking upon Your entire obedience, You say, “It is finished,” and we Your people believe most joyously that it is even so.
Brothers and sisters, this is more than you or I could have said if Adam had never fallen. If we had been in the Garden of Eden today, we could never have boasted a finished righteousness, since a creature can never finish its obedience. As long as a creature lives, it is bound to obey, and as long as a free agent exists on earth, it would be in danger of violating the vow of its obedience. If Adam had been in paradise from the first day until now, he might fall tomorrow. Left to himself, there would be no reason why that king of nature should now yet be uncrowned. But Christ the Creator, who finished creation, has perfected redemption. God can ask no more. The law has received all its claims. The largest extent of justice cannot demand another hour’s obedience. It is done; it is complete. Let us rejoice, then, in this that the Master meant by His dying cry that His perfect righteousness wherewith He covers us was finished.
4. But next, the Savior meant that the satisfaction He rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was not, to the last penny all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and forever, by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the tree. There was the cup, hell was in it, the Savior drank it – not a sip and then a pause, not a draught and then a ceasing, but He drained it till there is not a dregs left for any of His people. The great ten-thonged whip of the law was worn out upon His back. There is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannon of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition. There is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God. Sheathed is your sword,m O Justice! Silenced is your thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs and pains and agonies that chosen sinners should have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own beloved, and “it is finished.” Brethren, it is more than the damned in hell can ever say. If you and I had been constrained to make satisfaction to God’s justice by being sent to hell, we never could have said, “It is finished.” Christ has paid the debt that all the torments of eternity could not have paid. Lost souls, you suffer today as you have suffered for ages past, but God’s justice is not satisfied; His law is not fully magnified. And when time shall fail and eternity shall have been flying on, still forever, forever the final penny never having been paid, the chastisement for sin must fall upon unpardoned sinners. But Christ has done what all the flames of the pit could not do in all eternity. He has magnified the law and made it honorable, and now from the cross He cries, “It is finished.”
5. When he said, “It is finished,” Jesus had totally destroyed the power of Satan, of sin, and of death. The Champion had enlisted to do battle for our soul’s redemption, against all our foes. He met Sin. Horrible, terrible, all but omnipotent Sin nailed Him to the cross. But in that deed, Christ nailed Sin also to the tree. There they both did hand together – Sin and Sin’s Destroyer. Sin destroyed Christ, and by that destruction, Christ destroyed Sin.
Next came the second enemy, Satan. He assaulted Christ with all his hosts. Calling up his myrmidons from every corner and quarter of the universe, he said, “Awake, arise, or be forever fallen! Here is our great enemy who has sworn to bruise my head. Now let us bruise His heel!” They shot their hellish darts into His heart. They poured their boiling cauldrons on His brain. They emptied their venom into His veins. They spat their insinuations into His face. They hissed their devilish fears into His ear. He stood alone, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, hounded by all the dogs of hell. Our Champion quailed not but used His holy weapons, striking right and left with all the power of God-supported manhood. On came the hosts; volley after volley was discharged against Him. No mimic thunders were these, but such as might shake the very gates of hell. The Conqueror steadily advanced, overturning their ranks, dashing in pieces His enemies, breaking the bow and cutting the spear in sunder, and burning the chariots in the fire, while He cried, “In the name of God will I destroy you!” At last, foot to foot, He met the champion of hell, and now our David fought with Goliath. Not long was the struggle. Thick was the darkness that gathered around them both. But He who is the Son of God as well as the son of Mary knew how to smite the fiend, and He did smite him with divine fury till, having despoiled him of his armor, having quenched his fiery darts and broken his head, Jesus cried, “It is finished,”….
Death had come against Him, as Christmas Evans puts it, with his fiery dart that he struck right through the Savior will the point fixed in the cross. And when he tried to pull it out again, he left the sting behind. What more could he do? He was disarmed. Then Christ set some of His prisoners free, for many of the saints arose and were seen of many. Then He said to him, “Death, I take from you your keys. You must live for a little while to be the warder of those beds in which My saints shall sleep, but give Me your keys.” And lo! The Savior stands today with the keys of death hanging at His side, and He waits until the hour shall come of which no man knows. The voice of the archangel shall ring like the silver trumpets of Jubilee, and then He shall say, “Let My captives go free.” Then shall the tombs be opened in virtue of Christ’s death, and the very bodies of the saints shall live again in an eternity of glory.
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