Shortly before He drew His last breath, Jesus Christ cried out, “It is Finished”. At that place and time Jesus Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree, became a curse for us and paid the debt for our sins. On the cross He completed all of the physical and spiritual sufferings needed for the salvation of mankind.
Yet, more and more Christians assume that all of the work for redemption ended at the cross. But did it? What exactly was finished on the cross? Or, better yet, what provisions of our salvation would be finalized over the next three days culminating in His resurrection? What would have happened had Christ not risen?
Work Left Undone
- The pains of death would not be loosed. According to Acts 2:23-24 when God raised Christ from the dead, He loosed the pains of death. Romans 6:9 also affirms that because of the resurrection, death hath no more dominion over him.
- We would not be justified. Romans 4:25 states that Christ was delivered for our offences but that he was raised for our justification. Ah, but Romans 5:9 says we are justified by his blood. That is correct the blood was not brought into the holy of holies until Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In John 20 Jesus told Mary, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Jesus could not be touched until He ascended to the Father and applied the blood to the mercy seat in order to justify us in the sight of the Father. Robert Haldane said it well in his commentary on Romans (page 184). The justification, therefore, of His people, which includes not only the pardon of their sins, but also their title to the eternal inheritance, was begun in His death, and perfected by His resurrection. He wrought their justification by His death, but its efficacy depended on His resurrection. By His death He paid their debt; in His resurrection He received their acquittance. He arose to assure to them their right to eternal life, by fully discovering and establishing it in His own person, for all who are the members of His body.
- We would yet be in our sins. 1Corinthians 15:17 describes a domino effect. If Christ is not risen, then your faith is vain. If your faith is vain then you are yet in your sins. It is true that Christ paid it all on the cross and that He like the scapegoat carried our sins away, but the fact is that Christ had to appear before the Father without our sin before we could be made the righteousness of God in Him.
- We would not have access to the Father. When God raised Christ from the dead, He sat Him at His own right hand (Ephesians 1:20). Our access to the Father is through the Son. 1Timothy 2:5 states that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Had Christ not risen from the dead we could not approach the Father. Even the Old Testament saints that died (with a few exceptions) had to go to Abrahams bosom until Christ rose from the dead.
- We would have no inheritance. Though it is true that the testament goes into affect with the death of the testator, in this case there would be no heirs without the resurrection. 1Peter 1:3-4 teaches that we have been begotten to a lively hope by the resurrection, but it doesnt stop there. The next phrase says To an inheritance incorruptible. Without the resurrection there is no inheritance.
- Christ would not be Lord of both the dead and living. According to Romans 14:9, the resurrection is needed in order for Christ to have the right to be the judge. What right would Christ have to judge the unsaved dead if He did not conquer death Himself? The fact that Christ conquered death, hell, and the grave, gives Him the authority to call them to judgment.
Many people will go to John 19:30 and say that when Christ said, “It is finished” all of the work needing to be done to ensure salvation for mankind was complete. But there are numerous completions of the work of Christ. For instance, in John 17:4 the work He had given Him to do was finished. Evidently the Lord Jesus Christ finished different aspects of His work at different times. When Jesus said, “It is finished” in John 19:30. He was talking about the payment for our sins. Consider this verse in the book of James. James 1:15 states that sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Perhaps when Christ had made an end of sin it brought forth death. Just after Christ uttered the words “It is finished”, He then gave up the ghost. Anyway, Jesus did not say, “It is all finished”. That is merely how we read it. The fact is Christ had to suffer, die and be raised again in order for us to have the hope of eternal life.
As you can see, our eternity depends on more than Christ’s death on the cross. This should in no way take away from the work that Christ did on the cross, but rather give the Biblical balance to the gospel.