By Leonard Ravenhill
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar He said,
'It is finished' and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost."
I said last week that I'd attempt to talk to you on the three most important words, I believe, in history - IT IS FINISHED. This is one of the seven sayings, as we say, of the Lord Jesus on the cross. Just three words - IT IS FINISHED.
The Greatest Words Ever Uttered
By the Greatest Man That Ever Lived.
In these three words I see the consummation of all the Old Testament truth and the germination of all New Testament truth.
I don't believe that ever in history,
anywhere, at any time, by anybody,
were three words more pregnant with meaning
than these three words given by one Man at the end of His life -
It is finished. It is finished.
Now supposing that you were here and I was where you are - How would you start to handle a text like this?
I feel as though I am trying to catch the wind in my arm.
I am trying to pick up the Atlantic Ocean up in a sieve.
How do you deal with it?
Its magnitude staggers me,
Its mystery staggers me,
Its majesty staggers me.
It seems to me that here is a terminus in the life of the Lord Jesus: all the prophesies, all the law, all the prophets, terminate in this saying of the Lord Jesus Christ. And everything from here blossoms out because this is the beginning of it all. Three simple words - it is finished.
I suggest to you in all reverence that these three words terrified hell. IT IS FINISHED!
You see, this English phrase of ours, this little sentence, is not in the Greek at all. And I don't know much about Greek, but I did discover that in the Greek it is just one word: FINISHED!
Matthew 27 says that Jesus cried with a loud voice: "FINISHED!"...And I am sure all hell shook!
You see, this is an arena into which Jesus is moving. You can say the life of Jesus was a three act drama. You get the first years of His life, 30 years in preparation for 3 years.
The first chapter has been written,
The second chapter is now coming to a climax on the cross,
The third chapter is yet to come in all His resurrection splendor.
There is nothing to equal it anywhere.
I get indignant when I hear people say, "What we need to do is study comparative religion." Well, I say again with some heat and some feeling in my spirit, Christianity is not a comparative religion, it's a SUPERLATIVE religion! Because this one saying of Jesus Christ explodes every other religion on God's earth! They are all fakes. They are all useless. This momentous event...
I can see demons peeping out from hell as they see Jesus has gone to the cross.
I can see angels looking over the parapets of heaven,
I can see the Jews and the Romans and the Greeks. They are all at the cross!
The Cross of Jesus...we sing the hymn
"Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land,
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way."
Look, if you put the cross on Palestine, like that, and let the arms go round, you can scoop them round the whole world, because geographically, the cross is almost the center of the world. It is the center of time.
When we shot a rocket, did we change the calendar?
When we invented the atom bomb, did we change the calendar?
Isn't it amazing a little Baby came into the world and He divided time? - He divided men - He divided nations.
People say, "If we have revival we'll all be one." No! If we have revival we will be more divided than ever!
The first thing Jesus did before He could walk or talk was divide men. "Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him."
The last thing He did on the cross was divide men.
In His lifetime He divided men. He went into the Synagogue and there was a division because of Him. Wherever Jesus goes there is division.
And those demons were looking down in terror. Come on, come on, you've forgotten. Think again about the majesty of this event. You know how great it was? One of His other sayings was, "My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" In a tongue He knew so well, He says, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani." Which we can hardly interpret except: "My God, I am deserted." Everybody deserted Him.
You see, there at that moment when Jesus said: "It is finished," Mercy and Truth met together, Righteousness and Peace kissed each other... and hell went into panic. How do I know? Because the earth was shattered. The whole earth rocked on it's axis. The earth trembled under the impact of the sin that He bore for us. Heaven trembled... I've been to art galleries around the world, you've been in many I guess, you saw some beautiful pictures. But you know, there never was a photo of the cross; it's representations are all imagination. That event was so sacred that, as it were, God took His coat off and hung it over the sun. And there was darkness for three hours. He would not let anybody see His Son become corruption.
Jesus Christ, in the mystery of God's divine grace, was, as Wesley says, God "contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man," in the incarnation. The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him. Yet He clothed Himself in flesh and blood and crept into a woman's womb. How God became man I do not know, but less, less, less do I know HOW DID HE BECOME SIN?
You know the answer? No, you don't. Neither does any living person. Every man who's honest - take Spurgeon or anybody - the more honest the man is he, more he says, "I am baffled." As I get older I see more and more that, "great is the mystery of Godliness." I said to a brother today, "I feel that in spiritual matters, after 55 years walking with God, I don't have my feet wet, not even the sole underneath, never mind water to the ankles, or the knees, of the loins."
God has opened His treasure house to us. As I've used the phrase so often before: Do we really explore the possibilities of God?
What's the most exciting thing in your life? Don't answer me, answer straight up to God. Tell Him what is the most exciting thing.
That you become more knowledgeable, make more money, become more fit?
What is the most exciting thing to you?
Is it that day by day you slip in to Him and worship and adore Him?
I was thinking of this great hymn of Wesley today. He is talking about the cross and he says this,
"Would Jesus have the sinner die?
Why hangs He then on yonder tree?
What means that strange expiring cry?
Sinner He prays for you and me,
'Forgive them Father. O forgive.
They know not, that by Me they live.'
Thou loving all atoning Lamb
Thee - by Thy painful agony,
Thy blood, Thy sweat, Thy grief, Thy shame,
Thy cross and passion on the tree,
Thy precious death and life - I pray
Take all, take all my sins away!"
And then, in the rapture of that, Charles Wesley says this (and it's so wonderful. I can see that woman crying at the feet of Jesus, and I can see John Wesley, scholarly, dignified, trailing his academic gown behind him in Oxford University.)
"Oh, let me kiss Thy bleeding feet.
And bathe and wash them with my tears,
The story of Thy love repeat,
In every drooping sinner's ears,
That all mankind with me may prove,
Thy sovereign everlasting love.
Oh, let Thy love my heart constrain."
You see if He works it inward, it's going to work outward somewhere. God only puts up with words so long. A brother said to me during this week, "You know brother, I think we die in areas of our life. We don't die totally to God's Spirit. We die in areas. God gives up on us, in certain areas. He does not tolerate anymore. We said so much, we made our vows, we won't do it, God bypasses us in that area." Hold fast to that that thou hast that no man take thy crown! (Not demons, but that men take thy crown.)
So Charles finishes his hymn by saying this:
"Oh, let Thy love my heart constrain,
Thy Love for every sinner free,
That every fallen soul of man
May taste the grace that found out me,
That all mankind with me may prove,
Thy sovereign, everlasting love."
This, I say, was the most momentous moment in history. Hell had feared this moment for centuries, for millenniums! Why do you think the devil greased the path of Jesus and tried to make Him take a short cut to conquer the world?
Why do you think he stirred up enmity among the religious people? You see, there is one rotten canker that is in so many churches, as well as it was before. What does it say about Joseph? His brothers sold him. For what? For envy. What does it says about the Lord Jesus? The priests sold Him for envy. That festering thing in the heart of men and women. They sold Him because of envy. They sold Him because they hated Him. He was only a little baby, less than two years of age, when they had what history calls the Massacre of the Innocents. I said to you before, I'll say it to you again, whether you love me or hate me for it: If you've got children you ought to be up an hour before they go to school and cover those children every day with the blood of Jesus and really lay hold of the promises. They live in a hell of a world in the day in which we live. If you don't do it, I'll do it for you. Remember, when Satan thinks there is something going to happen, he is going to dog that child. I prayed, and I still do, whether you know or not, I pray for some of our kids, if I am here or not, if Jesus tarries, they will become some of the leaders half a generation, a decade from now. God will make them missionaries and evangelists, and teachers, and apostles, in the last great awakening, (which men are trying to work right up now and you can't do it.) But He is going to get youngsters and fill them with the Spirit, and teenagers in their early years. Remember Moses. You know, people say if you are good you do as the government tells you. If you are good, you tell the government to go to hell if they want to go and you obey God. And the father and mother of Moses did not obey the government, they hid their baby when the government said it should be destroyed. He is going to be the law giver, he is going to be one of the greatest men in history, and Satan says NO! The same thing happened in the life of Jesus. Jesus is not two years old and "Herod is troubled and all Jerusalem with him," and they said, "destroy Him." I often think about king Herod - he had more faith than the disciples. Somebody said, "He is going to be a King," and he believed it. Somehow Satan said, "You better believe it, that little fellow is the Son of God with power and authority. He is going to dethrone you and wreck your kingdom." And so just as they tried to destroy Moses at two years of age or under, they tried to destroy Jesus. From the moment He was born to the last thing on the cross. As I've said so often, I still say to myself - I need to - that even if you've gone to the cross, even if you got on the cross, the old devil comes with subtlety and he says, "Listen, get down from the cross and save yourself. Nobody is living like you. They live it up. They can't tell the difference, except they go to church on Sunday. Other than that, as for prayer and fasting and seeking God and travail... so... Why do you do it? Why don't you get an easier job? Get ten times as much as you get - going round here or going to some fancy church or some other thing." He comes to you in some way. You've decided you were going to live according to the standard of the Lord Jesus and he says, "Well, why don't you pinch it a little bit here, and reduce your convictions there, and not be so stiff right there, and do just a little compromise. Ha, everybody gets away with it."
From His infancy to the cross, the last thing they did, I read in Matthew when He had gone to the cross, they passed by - the scum of the earth passed by - and they wagged their heads and reviled Him. It was nothing unusual to see a man go down the street carrying a cross. It's as common as a boy carrying a baseball bat. "Hey look who is going, do you know who that is?" "So what, they put many a false prophet to death. Only He is a bit more brazen than the others, you know, He preached a sermon He said would shake the world, called the Sermon on the Mount. He has a bit more power but, you know why He does it? You know why He pushes devils around? Because He is the prince of devils, they have to obey Him." Here is the holiest, purest, most spotless man that ever lived. What does the world do?
They watched a man go down the street. Well, when the high priest went into the holy place, did he go in rags like this? Stained with His own blood?
Had he been up for hours?
Had he been pushed around by a vassal king by the name of Pilot, who said, "Oh, You get over to Herod. You are in his domain." And Herod says, "You get Him back into his territory... I don't want this responsibility?"
You think the high priest could have gone into the holy place with a faded gown that once belonged to a king, and a crown of thorns, and spit on his jaw, and hair pulled from his face, struggling under a load as though he was drunk?
The priest went into the holy place in garments of glory and beauty, the most beautiful garments in the world, all hand sown, meticulous, marvelous. He went with a crown on his head, he went with a breast plate. Beautiful stones.
How did Jesus go? Jesus went there staggering to the cross.
Did He have a stone? A red stone on His breast? no, just His own blood, that's all.
Did He have an immaculate garment threaded? no, a peasant's garment.
Did He have a golden crown with "Holiness unto the Lord"? no, He had a crown of thorns with holiness in His spirit.
Did people stand in awe and say, "The priest has gone in, will he come out?" No. This is what they said as the holiest man that ever lived trudged up that road that they call the "via dolorosa", staggering under a cross, "Ha, ha, He is the Man that talked about being strong and He gave strength to the weak, and eyes to the blind, and He did a lot of things, and look He can't keep up the load." He wasn't sinking under the load of the cross. He was carrying the weight of the sin of the world!
Those poor dumb, blind folks that stood there, the gamblers and the thieves, the lawyers and the doctors and the soldiers had no eyes to see.
The priest went into the holy place with gorgeous diamonds and priceless stones on his breast once a year for one nation - and could be dead and replaced before next year. Here is a man staggering up this road Who is going to take the consummate sin and grief, not of one nation, but of THE WHOLE WORLD!
There is not a computer of computers that can give you the frightful amount of human guilt; it was more than the sands by the sea shore or the stars in heaven. He isn't going to go every year - He is going once into the holy place.
He isn't burdened under a cross of wood - He is carrying the sin of the world which Samson, with all his strength, could not carry.
He is solving a problem that Solomon, with all his wisdom, could not solve.
Oh, blind idiots looking out of their chariots,
those Romans with their proud garments,
those priests who thought they had an investiture from God,
those merchants who scorned His poverty. God pity them!
He is going to the cross. He hasn't got a dime in His pocket and He put every vein of silver in the world and nugget of gold that is in it. Nobody stood by Him. Not even His disciples. Isn't there a hymn that says:
"The pain in His heart was the hardest to bear,
The heart that was broken for me."?
Again I say, He is not going to repeat the act. He is doing it once and for all. That's what He is doing. See, Jesus is the consummation of everything, every type that is in the Old Testament. You can take the sacrificial type
- He is the red heifer.
- He is the perfect lamb.
- He is the dove whose breast was put in blood and thrown away,
sent out into the air.
But the priest has no sacrifice. It does not cost him a thing - he is using the blood of beasts. This Man is going to enter the holiest place of all in His own blood. Not every year but once forever. The priest that walks into the holy place to the astonishment and amazement of all the people is going to go once and eventually is going to die - but our High Priest is going to live forever.
He is the perfect offering and He is the perfect priest,
He is the perfect prophet and He is the perfect King.
Moses is the greatest prophet, but "a greater than Moses is here". You take the perfection of every one of those characters in the Old Testament and He is the ultimate in perfection.
He has the wisdom of Solomon.
He has the patience of Job,
He has the self-reliance of Nehemiah.
He has the statesmanship of Moses.
He has the courage of Joshua.
He has the broken heart of Jeremiah.
All rolled into one personality. Do you wonder that Satan said, "If you can get that Man out of God's will, if we can push Him out of the main track, we can hold the world captive for millions and millions of millenniums."
Again, going down that road the people mocked Him - that's what the Bible says. "They that passed by reviled Him wagging their heads." What a bunch of dumb, blind, senseless folk. If Caesar comes down the road they bow the knee and say, "Hail, Caesar."
If the priest comes, they stand in awe. But, you see, He not only was, He IS. In this mad, insane, world in which we live, HE STILL IS DISPISED AND REJECTED OF MEN.
As you know, I am not very fond of translations of the New Testament - I like the good old King James. But I love this verse in Phillips's translation. I am going to get it printed as a little card. His translation of Ephesians 1:10 is this: "For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan. He purposes in His sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ." I don't care how drunk the nations are with their iniquity today! I don't care that politicians are as hypocritical today as they were in Nixon's day or anybody else's. I don't care how intoxicated men are with iniquity. I don't care that people say we are nearer a blowout in the Middle East at this moment than ever we've been for years. (When they finished the news the other night the newscaster actually said, "Well, that's the end of the bad news for the day." They are not often so honest!) But listen, God has allowed us to know. Come on, lift your chin up however rough the going. God has allowed us to know. We are initiated. We are the believers. We know Him, and He has allowed us to know the secret of His plan, and it's this: "He purposes in His sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in His Christ."
Could you try and imagine what Jesus was thinking on that road to the cross? I think the earth shook beneath His feet. I say God draped the sun - He would not let anybody see His Son bear the sin. He became sin for us! Remember please, will you? When Jesus utters these three words - It is finished - it is after the three hours of darkness that covered the whole earth. There was a historian in Egypt at the time who wrote this, listen, "In this awful mid-day that has become midnight, either God is suffering or Somebody He loves is suffering." That was a pagan testimony. The whole world shook under the impact. He is not bearing millions or trillions or quadrillions, He is bearing the total sum of human sin. Not only committed sin but depravity as a whole.
They reviled Him, they shook their heads. Verse 41 of that 27th chapter of Matthew says, "Likewise the chief priests." These are the men who know the law and the prophets. These are the men that read Isaiah 35 so many times, "When He comes the eyes of the blind shall be opened." And He did it before them and they still spit on His face, because that's what it says a bit later on.
Oh, you have it rough and I have it rough at times.
Anybody boot your behind and nearly break your spine?
Anybody get a nice mouthful of flem and spit in your eye?
Anybody take your beard and pull the flesh out with it?
Anybody say, "Well, I know you of course, you are devil possessed"?
They mocked Him, they scorned Him, they reviled Him.
The people passing by wagged their heads.
And then the priests mocked Him.
But wait a minute, there were two men beside him crucified, you know what they did? The thieves which were with Him, they cast the same in His teeth. Isn't it amazing that to the very doorstep of hell itself they scorned Him and blasphemed Him? And they were a heartbeat away from eternity. Well, one of the hymns says about this Lord Jesus of ours,
"It is the way the Master went, should not the servant tread it still?"
It is finished. What is finished? Well, alleluia, from one angle this is finished, men aren't going to abuse Him anymore. A hymn writer says,
"The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now,
The royal diadem adorns the mighty Victor's brow."
He is out of the reach of men. They aren't going to push Him around. They aren't going to crucify. They aren't going to nail Him to a tree. How do you know that those thieves that were hailing Him and cursing Him on the tree were not part of the crowd of five thousand He fed. He did not discriminate. He did not say, "Give it to Jews, but not to those, and not to those Greeks, and..." He said, "Feed them!" Well, He throws His mercy over the air, over a hundred nations, a thousand peoples this afternoon.
"Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Fasting alone in the desert,
Think of the pain that He bore,"
Oh, my God, my God. To me
e missionaries or football players - but I prayed for them.
He said, "It is finished."
What is finished? Man's power over Him.
What is finished? Satan's abuse of Him. Satan's testing of Him.
He started with forty days in the wilderness and He ministered three years. How long did He live before the three years? Thirty years. So He had ten years training for every one year He was going to minister. That's pretty good training, isn't it?
Thirty years of training? But again, He is going to do in this one act what all the "blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain, could give no guilty conscience peace nor wash away one stain, but Christ, the Heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away." Ten million oxen have been slain. Thousands of sheep, sacrifices have been made, new moons and Sabbaths; people have done all kinds of things, and Jesus ties it all up in one redemptive act: Christ the Heavenly Lamb.
No, He is not going to be tempted anymore now. He is not going to be looking out of His eyes corners as He carries that awesome cross, and carries the sin of the world and thinks, "I can't see Peter around or anyone."
He suffered heartbreak because His disciples were unfaithful.
He suffered heartbreak because the synagogue and the temple rejected Him.
I say they knew the law and the prophets. They heard Isaiah 35 so many times; they dreamed of it, "The highway shall be there and bondages are going to cease, the Romans will lose their power over us. There is going to be no cripple, no lame. He is going to heal and cure and everybody is going to be sanctified." And when they met Him in flesh and blood they didn't even know Him. Do you know why? Because He didn't do it their way - that's why. Because He put new wine in the old wine skins, and they burst.
The last great outpouring - a lot of people say it's here, I don't believe that for a minute. I believe we have one or two trickles, but surely not an outpouring. Someone said recently, "Well, if this is the visitation; if there are fifty million born again people, then why is the nation in this condition?" Well, the salt has lost its savor. I believe there will be such a visitation that even the workings of God will become headlines above the sports headlines, above political headlines, above economic headlines.
There are going to be such manifestations of divine power that God is going to get the glory for His Son.
That's going to shake the world too. It is finished.
When He said, "It is finished," really He is saying, "I don't need this body anymore. I don't need food anymore. I don't need sleep anymore. I am not a human being any more in the sense you know humanity. IT IS FINISHED!" "Men have no power over Me. Satan has no power over Me."
Jesus said, "It is finished." What was finished? Temptation. No more temptation. It has no power over Him. No more dependence on human agencies. He is going to pass into a tunnel. He is going to do what no man in history ever did. This is an unprecedented act. It's an UNREPEATABLE ACT!
I say He is the perfection of the law, He is the perfection of prophets. Take the most beautiful characters in the world and mold them all into one and HE IS EXACTLY THAT! And instead of angels hanging over Him and coming down and slaying people and saying, "BOW DOWN YOU REBELS, THIS IS THE SON OF GOD," people kicked Him, and reviled Him, and they spat on Him. THEY MOCKED HIM. Remember that lovely song that says, "He could have called ten thousand angels?" I like that song.
It is finished. What was finished? The tyranny of the devil. I don't think the church has wakened up to that yet, but it is finished. It is so. I believe that when Jesus cried with a loud voice it echoed down every corridor in hell. IT IS FINISHED!! I can almost hear the demons in hell say, "What? He's broken our power." "You mean that Satan doesn't have...?" "No, no, no. Satan is bound. And not only that, death has lost it's sting." "What?" "Yes, death has lost it's sting. And more than that... 'The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus his pardon receives.' It doesn't matter if he is going in the Woldorf Astoria this afternoon with somebody else's wife dripping with diamonds. Or if he is a bum down the street. Or he is with the folk that still go naked to the beach every week there in San Diego and defy the police to arrest them. Or whether he is a big ecclesiastical guy standing behind the desk with all his mind loaded with such modernistic ideas. It makes no difference. If he comes to the cross..." Well, we sang about it this afternoon, "That old rugged cross, so despised by the world has a wondrous attraction."
"It is finished." The implication of the Greek word is "This is complete." This is redemption complete. You can't add to it. You can't subtract from it. It doesn't need something the priest says added to it. Jesus made a perfect redemption for men. His blood was shed. It's more than all the blood of beasts. Because again, it says in Hebrews 10:9, "If the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works." He not only paid the total sum of human sin, He nailed it to the tree. That's what He did.
It wasn't the Greeks that put Him there, it wasn't the Romans that put Him there - they were all there, I thank God for that.
The Greeks were there, their day was over, they were coming out of their glory, they were fading out. They were the past generation.
The Romans were there, they were the ruling generation at that time.
And who else were there? Well, the black folk were there, a future generation.
So, you see, the past, the present, the future, all were at the cross.
If you lay a cross on the floor it points North, South, East and West. If you stand the cross up it embraces - as Wesley says, "The arms of love that compass me do all mankind embrace." If you stand it up it points to a topless heaven and to a bottomless hell and the arms are outstretched to save.
We are mutilating all the hymns and we mutilated that gorgeous hymn we sing so often, "Beneath the cross of Jesus." A stanza of it says this, listen,
"The darkness of an awful grave
That gapes both deep and wide;"
And there between us stands the cross,
Two arms outstretched to save,
Like a watchman set to guard the way
From that eternal grave."
At the other side of that cross there is an eternal grave, and the only obstruction to that eternal grave is the finished work of the Lord Jesus. You see, it is finished, the law and the prophets they've no... at least the Old Testament economy, as we say, has no power. Sin, if we obey God, has no dominion over us. Death has no dominion over us. The power of Satan has been broken. Heaven has received Him. And the next thing is not only "It is finished," but "He is Risen" which will be superseded with "I will come again."
We shouldn't put our tongue in our cheek and say this in a whisper. We ought to shout this from the house top. To a world that is groping in darkness we ought to proclaim with a trumpet voice, "It is FINISHED,
you can't buy salvation,
you can't crawl on your knees through the holy city,
you can't go on a pilgrimage,
you can't offer your righteousness,
there is nothing you can do, but bow in humility and confess and accept it."
It is finished. This is the language of earth. Why? Because in heaven they never say, "It is finished." Because it is never going to be finished, for all eternity. Oh, redemption is finished, sure enough. All that I said is finished. But you see, this never finishes. We are going to live and reign with Him for ever and ever. And Gabriel isn't going to blow the trumpet one day and say, "Hey, you've been living in this super millennium for four billion trillion years and it's over." NO SIR. I like that part of the Messiah where it goes up and up as they sing "And He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings." Nobody wants it to finish in eternity. We are going to be with the eternal Bride Groom. But wait a minute. They never say it in hell either.
There will be people in hell today and people in hell a billion years from now. No messenger will come from another world and say, "It is finished. Your judgment is passed. You've no more suffering for your sin. The wrath of God doesn't abide in you anymore." No. If we are going to escape that eternal judgment, if we are going to enter that eternal rest, it must happen now. Isn't it amazing that people withhold their petty little lives from Him? That they love their sin enough to get the anger and wrath of God? Rather than repent, and believe, and be saved?
Christ's love is, "so amazing and so divine,"
That He bore our sins in His body,
That He took the curse and the wrath of God upon Him.
That He took our sins and His heart was broken that ours might be healed.
He was an outcast that we might be brought in.
He suffered without the gate that we might enter into heaven and said,.
IT IS FINISHED!
Copyright (c) 1994 by Leonard Ravenhill - http://www.ravenhill.org/