What Do We Lose?
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.
The title to this post is reference to what we lose if we apply those words of Jesus Christ to the Atonement. It is popular in some quarters to quote that saying of Jesus Christ in a context that would suggest that once he said those words, nothing else was ever needed to secure our eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. We are going to look at just what we would lose if that was the proper application of that verse.
I will digress for a moment. Back in the 1970s I was being slowly drawn to the King James Bible believing community. I was an unstable person and I was subject to the winds and doctrines of various groups. Among the religious community in Athens Greece where I served in the Air Force was a small group of Church of Christ adherents who believed that no one who was not baptized could ever be saved. Quite frankly, I was troubled by their assertions.
The Neo-Evangelicals with whom I fellowshipped were quick to bring up the thief on the cross. "When was he baptized?" they would ask. I clutched this prop to my chest and and the next time the Church of Christ adherent challenged me about baptism, I threw the thief on the cross at him. "Oh", he said, "he does not count because he was still in the Old Testament, Jesus had not died yet". When I took this back to the Neo-Evangelicals, they pooh poohed his response. I was still troubled. After all, this was my soul that we were talking about.
When I took my problem to a King James Bible believer, he handled it scripturally. He quoted Hebrews 9:16,17; For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. My bible believing friend asked me, "Who died first, Jesus Christ or the thief?" I answered that Jesus had died first. "Therefore", he said, "the thief died in the New Testament."
What a relief that was to me! It was my first encounter with applying the words of God to the relief of my soul. I began to see just how important it really was to have exact wording that could be trusted in every nuance. The Neo-Evangelicals had merely played the typical little game of "We have more verses than he does". My bible believing friend put me on a path where every word, every tense of every verb, every punctuation point and every capitalization was important, and if that I had a verse that contradicted what I believe, and that same verse was in its proper context, I needed to change what I believe. I have thrived on that path.
Now, let's get back to John 19:30; When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. Had he died yet when he said it? No, he had not. You may think that I am quibelling about small beans. You may think that the passage needs to be taken as a whole and that wrestling the tense of the verb to exclude the next sentences is cutting things far too fine. My Church of Christ acquaintance certainly thought so when I sprang the word of God on him. Just what would we lose if Jesus meant that every single thing necessary for the redemption of man had been done when Jesus died, and that the slip up of the tense should not be taken seriously?
Had he resurrected yet? Are we to believe that the resurrection was not necessary for our salvation? Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification, Romans 4:25. After all, if everything that was necessary for our salvation had been accomplished when Jesus Christ said, It is finished, then whether or not he ever rose from the dead is utterly immaterial. If he Jesus Christ obtained everything that we would ever need for eternal redemption of the cross, and if he was in the tomb today awaiting the same resurrection that we await, we would be just as saved. I don't believe that.
Did he need to take his blood into heaven? Or, was that just some side show? Did he need to be buried? In fact, every single thing that the Apostle Paul describes as necessary for the gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-4 happened after Jesus said, It is finished." Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
It is impossible to apply John 19:30 to the completion of redemption and not do violence to the order of scripture, the tense of the verb and entire testimony of the passion of Jesus Christ. If I was to apply John 19:30 anywhere, I would look for its companion verse, James 1:15; Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. The lust of men had brought forth sin and our savior took it upon himself. Our savior became sin for us who knew no sin (II Corinthians 5:21.) That sin when it was finished, brought forth death.
It is sin that is finished. You might say, "why is there still sin in the world?" The Japanese were finished after Midway, but it took 3 more years for them to see it. The Confederacy was done after Gettysburg and Vicksburg, but it took two more years for them to see it. Alabama was done when Clemson took the field (oh it hurts to say that), but it took four quarters to prove it. A man who takes a lethal dose of radiation is finished the moment he does so, but he may linger for months. Sin is finished. Keep in mind, Jesus abolished death, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, II Timothy 1:10, but to the eye of flesh it looks strong and well. Sin is finished.