Gospel Sermon: When Jesus Said “It Is finished” on the Cross, What Did He Mean?
Christians believe that when the Lord Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross, He was saying that God's work of saving mankind had been completed. So everyone feels certain that when the Lord returns, He won't have any morework to do, but He'll just lift all believers up into the sky to meet the Lord, take us into heaven, and that'll be it. This is something that believers in the Lord firmly believe. That's why so many are always gazing at the sky, idly waiting for the Lord to take them straight up into His kingdom. But now the great disasters have arrived and most haven't seen the Lord's coming, so their faith is waning and they're feeling discouraged. Some even have doubts: Was the Lord's promise even real? Is He coming, or not? Actually, the Lord Jesus came back in secret as the Son of man a long time ago, expressing a lot of truths and doing the work of judgment beginning with the house of God. But most people aren't trying to listen for the voice of God or seeking to hear the Holy Spirit's words to the churches, and they've been assuming all along that the Lord has to come on a cloud to take them into heaven, so they're missing the chance to welcome the Lord. That will be a lifelong regret. This may be very closely linked to how people interpret the Lord Jesus' words on the cross: "It is finished."
Let's start with this. Why is it that so many believers think that the Lord Jesus saying "It is finished" meant that God's work to save mankind was done? Is there any biblical basis for this? Is this confirmed by the Holy Spirit? Did the Lord ever say that He wasn't going to perform any more work to save mankind? Has the Holy Spirit testified that these words were referring to God completing His work of salvation? We can say with certainty: No. So then, why does everyone define these words from the Lord Jesus as meaning that God's salvation work was fully completed then? That's a little absurd, isn't it? Understanding God's words is no easy task. It says in 2 Peter 1:20, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." The consequences of interpreting the Scripture on your own are very serious. Think of the Pharisees— they personally interpreted the prophecies about the Messiah, and as a result, the Messiah came, and they saw that the Lord Jesus didn't fit with their interpretations. So they condemned His work and even had Him crucified. They faced very serious consequences. This directly led to them being damned by the Lord Jesus. They were cursed!
So when the Lord Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross, what was He talking about? Understanding this requires careful thought on the biblical prophecies about the Lord's return in the last days, especially the things the Lord Jesus personally said He'd do, and His parables about the kingdom of heaven. These things are directly linked to His work in the last days. We need to have a basic understanding of these prophecies and parables to correctly understand what the Lord Jesus was really talking about when He said this on the cross. Even if we don't fully understand it, that's no call to assume that He meant that God's work to save mankind was completely done. This is an arbitrary, ludicrous belief. In fact, if we give serious consideration to the Lord Jesus' prophecies and parables for the kingdom of heaven, we can gain a basic understanding of the kingdom and the Lord's work upon His return. Then we won't misinterpret His statement, "It is finished." The Lord Jesus prophesied: "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:12–13). "If any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:47–48). "For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son. … And has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man" (John 5:22, 27). And in 1 Peter it says: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17). In Revelation, we see: "Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof" (Revelation 5:5). "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7). The Lord Jesus also used a lot of parables to describe the kingdom of heaven, like "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:47–50). We can see from these prophecies and parables that the Lord Jesus said He'd do a great deal of work when He returns. But the most important part of it is expressing the truth and doing the work of judgment. This will lead people to enter into all truths and then sort all according to their kind. Those who can be perfected will be, and those who must be eliminated will be eliminated. This will completely realize everything the Lord Jesus said about the kingdom. Think of the wheat and the tares, the fishing net, the wise and the foolish virgins, the sheep and the goats, and the good and evil servants. The work of judgment starting with the house of God will separate the wheat from the tares, the good from the evil servants, those who love the truth from those who just crave comfort. The wise virgins will attend the Lamb's wedding feast and be perfected by God. What about the foolish virgins? They'll fall into the disasters, weeping and gnashing their teeth, because they didn't listen for God's voice. This is the work of judgment to sort all according to their kind, rewarding the good and punishing the evil, and this will completely fulfill this prophecy in Revelation: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Revelation 22:11). "Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12). When we really understand the Lord Jesus' prophecies, we can see that the Lord's coming in the last days is mainly to express the truth and do the work of judgment, sorting everyone according to their kind and determining their outcome. So can we really claim that when the Lord Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross, He was saying that God's work to save mankind was finished? Will we continue to foolishly gaze at the sky, waiting for the Lord Jesus to come down on a cloud and take us up into the sky to meet with Him? Will we still casually condemn all the truths God's expressed when He works in the last days? Will we brazenly deny that the Lord has returned in the flesh as the Son of man to do the judgment work of the last days? The great disasters have already arrived, and a lot of religious people are still lost in their dream of the Lord returning, thinking He'd never cast them out. It's time to wake up. If they don't wake up, once the disasters are over andis openly appearing to all people, God will have made heaven and earth anew, and all those people in the religious world will be wailing and gnashing their teeth. That will fulfill this prophecy in Revelation: "Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him" (Revelation 1:7).
Many are bound to ask what the Lord Jesus really did mean when He said "It is finished" on the cross. It's actually very simple. The Lord Jesus' words were always very pragmatic, so when He said this, He was certainly referring to His work of redemption. But people insist on understanding these practical words from the Lord as being about God's work to save man, but this is entirely arbitrary, because God had only partially completed His work to save mankind. There was still the most critical step—His judgment work in the last days. Why would you maintain that "It is finished" meant that all of God's work of salvation was done? Isn't that somewhat absurd and unreasonable? Why was the Lord Jesus crucified in the first place? What did He actually accomplish through this? What was the outcome? All believers know this, because this is documented very clearly within the Bible. The Lord Jesus came to redeem mankind. By being crucified, the Lord Jesus served as a sin offering for humanity, taking on everyone's sins so that people no longer had to be condemned and put to death under the law. Then people could have their sins forgiven as long as they believed in the Lord, and prayed and confessed to Him, and enjoy incredible grace from God. That is salvation by grace, and it is what the Lord Jesus' redemption work achieved. Although our sins were forgiven through our faith, no one can deny that we still can't help but sin all the time. We're living in a cycle of sinning, confessing, and sinning again. We haven't escaped sin at all. What does this mean? It means that we still have a sinful nature, and we have satanic dispositions, so we can't fix the problem of continuing to sin after our sins are forgiven. This leaves all believers at a loss—it's something very painful. God's words say, "You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:45). God is righteous and holy, so anyone who is impure cannot see Him. So how could people who are always sinning and resisting God be worthy of entering God's kingdom? Since people haven't fully escaped sin and become purified, can God's work to save mankind really be over? God's salvation will be complete salvation— He would never give up on His work halfway. That's why the Lord Jesus prophesied His return multiple times. He has returned in the last days, quite a while ago, as Almighty God incarnate. Almighty God has expressed truths to do the work of judgment on the foundation of the Lord's work of redemption. This is to cleanse mankind of our corrupt dispositions so we can be freed from the shackles of sin. It's to fully save us from Satan's forces and ultimately bring us into God's kingdom. It's not until Almightywork of the last days has been completed that God's work to save mankind will be finished.
Almighty God says, "Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man's sin offering; He did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to become the sin offering and bear the sins of man, but it also required God to do even greater work to rid man completely of his satanically corrupted disposition. And so, now that man has been forgiven of his sins, God has returned to the flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment. This work has brought man into a higher realm. All those who submit under His dominion shall enjoy higher truth and receive greater blessings. They shall truly live in the light, and they shall gain the truth, the way, and the life" ().
"By means of this work of judgment and chastisement, man will fully come to know the filthy and corrupt essence within his own self, and he will be able to change completely and become clean. Only in this way can man become worthy to return before the throne of God. All the work done this day is so that man can be made clean and be changed; through judgment and chastisement by the word, as well as through refinement, man can purge away his corruption and be made pure. Rather than deeming this stage of work to be that of salvation, it would be more apt to say it is the work of purification" (The Word Appears in the Flesh).
"The essential purpose of God's work of chastisement and judgment is to purify humanity and to prepare them for their ultimate rest; without such cleansing, none of humanity could be classified into different categories according to kind, or enter into rest. This work is humanity's only path to enter into rest. Only God's work of purification will cleanse humans of their unrighteousness, and only His work of chastisement and judgment will bring to light those disobedient elements of humanity, thereby separating those who can be saved from those who cannot, and those who will remain from those who will not. When this work ends, those people who are allowed to remain will all be cleansed and enter a higher state of humanity in which they will enjoy a more wonderful second human life upon the earth; in other words, they will commence their human day of rest, and coexist with God. After those who are not allowed to remain have been chastised and judged, their true colors will be entirely exposed, after which they will all be destroyed and, like Satan, will no longer be permitted to survive upon the earth. The humanity of the future will no longer include any of this type of people; such people are not fit to enter the land of the ultimate rest, nor are they fit to join in the day of rest that God and humanity will share, for they are the targets of punishment and are wicked, unrighteous people. … The entire purpose behind God's ultimate work of punishing evil and rewarding good is to thoroughly purify all humans so that He may bring a purely holy humanity into eternal rest. This stage of His work is the most crucial; it is the final stage of the whole of His work of management" (The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Almighty God's words are very clear. In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus' redemption work was just to forgive man's sins. It is Almighty God's work of judgment in the last days that thoroughly cleanses and saves mankind. Almighty God's words judge and expose man's rebellious, anti-God nature and essence, allowing us to know our own satanic disposition and corruption. It shows us that we're full of satanic dispositions, like arrogance, craftiness, and wickedness without the slightest human likeness. This is the only way for people to see the truth of how deeply corrupted by Satan they are, so they genuinely despise themselves and develop true remorse, then repent to God. Then they see how precious the truth is and begin to focus on putting God's words into practice and entering into truth reality. This allows them to gradually get rid of their corrupt disposition and begin to transform in their life disposition, and ultimately become able to truly submit to and fear God, and live by His words. This is how people can entirely cast off Satan's forces and be fully saved by God, then they can be protected by God and survive the great disasters in the last days, and enter into the beautiful destination God has prepared for mankind. This fulfills the prophecy in Revelation 21:3–6. "I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, andshall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And He said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely." Here, God says "It is done." This is entirely different from what the Lord Jesus said on the cross: "It is finished." These are different contexts, different worlds. When the Lord Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross, He was talking about completing His work of redemption. The words "It is done" in the Book of Revelation are God talking about fully completing His work to save mankind, when God's tabernacle is with men, He will live among them, and they will be the people of His kingdom, where there will be no more tears, death, or misery. This is the only hallmark of God completing His work of salvation.
At this point, it should be clear to everyone that claiming the Lord Jesus' words on the cross meant that God's work of salvation was done is entirely contrary to the reality of God's work and is purely a human notion. It is a misinterpretation of the Lord's words that is deceptive and misleading, and there's no telling how many people it has done in. Those who blindly cling to this, just waiting for the Lord to suddenly appear on a cloud so they can be taken up into the kingdom, all the while refusing to examine the many truths expressed by Almighty God, will entirely miss their chance to meet the Lord. And of course, they'll never escape sin and be fully saved. Then a lifetime of faith will come to naught, and they are bound to fall into the disasters and be eliminated by God.
Almighty God says, "Christ of the last days brings life, and brings the enduring and everlasting way of truth. This truth is the path by which man gains life, and it is the only path by which man shall know God and be approved by God. If you do not seek the way of life provided by Christ of the last days, then you shall never gain the approval of Jesus, and shall never be qualified to enter the gate of the kingdom of heaven, for you are both a puppet and prisoner of history. Those who are controlled by regulations, by letters, and shackled by history will never be able to gain life nor gain the perpetual way of life. This is because all they have is turbid water which has been clung to for thousands of years instead of the water of life that flows from the throne. Those who are not supplied with the water of life will forever remain corpses, playthings of Satan, and sons of hell. How, then, can they behold God? If you only try to hold on to the past, only try to keep things as they are by standing still, and do not try to change the status quo and discard history, then will you not always be against God? The steps of God's work are vast and mighty, like surging waves and rolling thunders—yet you sit passively awaiting destruction, clinging to your folly and doing nothing. In this way, how can you be considered someone who follows the footsteps of the Lamb? How can you justify the God that you hold on to as a God who is always new and never old? And how can the words of your yellowed books carry you across into a new age? How can they lead you to seek the steps of God's work? And how can they take you up to heaven? What you hold in your hands are letters that can provide but temporary solace, not truths that are capable of giving life. The scriptures you read can only enrich your tongue and are not words of philosophy that can help you know human life, much less the paths that can lead you to perfection. Does this discrepancy not give you cause for reflection? Does it not make you realize the mysteries contained within? Are you capable of delivering yourself to heaven to meet God on your own? Without the coming of God, can you take yourself into heaven to enjoy family happiness with God? Are you still dreaming now? I suggest, then, that you stop dreaming and look at who is working now—look to see who is now carrying out the work of saving man during the last days. If you do not, you shall never gain the truth, and shall never gain life" (The Word Appears in the Flesh).