“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
“It is finished!” said the Lord Jesus just before He died. Those three little words in English, translated from one Greek word, τετελεσται (tetelestai), makes an impact upon history like no other words in any language for all eternity; at least as far as the eternal souls of men are concerned.
“Fulfilled” is one way this term may be translated. What has been fulfilled? Why, the Law and the Prophets, of course. Jesus observed the law both actively and passively in utter and complete perfection. He also fulfilled all righteousness to the very end, taking on “the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7, 8). Jesus Christ was fully man with flesh and bone as we have, and we are glad because by His incarnation, He is the righteous representative for mankind; yet, we also rejoice in His humanity as being much more unique than yours and mine. He was perfectly complete as a man, lacking nothing for righteousness, neither faltering nor failing in virtue and goodness, for He is very Truth. The blood that coursed through His veins was the untainted blood of the Son of the Most High God.
“Paid in full” is another way this may be translated. What was paid in full? Redemption for the soul saved by grace! The debt owed to God by each and every one of us for sinning against His holiness and infinite goodness! Jesus Christ satisfied the penalty owed by each and every soul elected by God to salvation because He paid it to the last mite with His shed blood, in His suffering and enduring God’s holy wrath for sin, and by laying down His life because of His love for His friends and, most especially, for His love for the heavenly Father. This utterance, “Paid in full,” declares that Jesus Christ is Almighty God, because the sufficiency of the penalty payment must come from the Judge who was offended. Jesus of Nazareth is very God! If we have believed on Christ by faith, trusting that His righteous life sufficiently paid the lack in our righteousness; trusting that His pure blood shed provides forgiveness of sin for the most wretched sinner; trusting that His sacrificial death sufficiently paid the penalty we owe the God’s majesty for the sins we have committed against Him; that if we have trusting faith in the debt He paid for the debt we owe, then Christ has redeemed us with life everlasting. He paid a debt most wondrous!
He paid a debt He did not owe;
I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song:
“Amazing Grace,” the whole day long;
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 3:7-12