Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 10

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30

From the beginning of human history, people have tried to remedy their sin problem through their own efforts. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they tried to remedy their sense of fear and shame by covering themselves with “fig leaves” (Genesis 3:7). But this covering did not remove the effects of their sin. Since that first attempt to remove the consequences of sin through human effort, people have been trying to remove their own guilt and shame through their own accomplishments. Various religions have been created by people trying to remedy their sin problem. But all man-made religions fall short of God’s solution to our sin problem. 

In Genesis 3:21, God graciously provided the proper covering for Adam and Eve. He “made tunics of skin” through the death of an innocent animal. Blood must be shed. Imagine how Adam must have felt to see one of the animals he had named and cared for being killed on his account! Never had Adam and Eve known death. This was serious business and this was to be God’s way of dealing with sin throughout the ages. By providing a covering with animal skins, God provided forgiveness through the “shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22). God later provided forgiveness through the Old Testament sacrificial system. 

Those animals were shadows of the Babe who was born on that first Christmas morning. He would be called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Like that first animal that was sacrificed for Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ would also be innocent and without sin because He was and is God (John 1:1, 14, 17; 18:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). And like that first sacrificial animal, Jesus was born to die for the sins of others (John 1:29; Romans 5:8; I John 4:9), that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Like Adam and Eve, our human efforts or works cannot remove our sin and shame (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Religion cannot take away our sins. Only Jesus Christ can take away our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Why? We will discover the answer in the next verse of our study about lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life.

In this picture that John presents we learn that WE CANNOT WORK OUR WAY TO HEAVEN BECAUSE WE CANNOT PAY A DEBT THAT IS ALREADY PAID (John 19:30). The apostle John writes, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ ” (John 19:30a). As we saw in our last lesson, Jesus’ throat and lips had become parched from the extreme loss of bodily fluids. He shouted out in agony, “I am thirsty!” (John 19:28) to fulfillthe prophecy in Psalm 69:21 (cf. John 19:28-29) and to save us from an eternal thirst (Ecclesiastes 3:11; John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; Revelation 22:17). John then tells us Jesus “received the sour wine” which would moisten His throat and lips to proclaim the most triumphant declaration ever made: “It is finished!” He did not say, “I am finished!” as some might think. “That would mean He died defeated. No, this was not the end for Him but the beginning of a new chapter in His eternal existence.” 1

When John writes, “And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30), he is connecting us back to something Jesus said earlier. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18). The Jews or Romans did not take Jesus’ life from Him. Christ voluntarily laid down His life for the sins of the world. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

What did Jesus mean when He said “It is finished”? The Greek word that is translated “finished” is tetelestai. Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Jesus was saying that our sin debt was paid in full! Past, present, and future sins have all been paid for by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (John 1:29; Revelation 1:5; 12:11).

The Bible tells us that all people have sinned against God with their thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:9-23). All sin incurs a debt which the sinner owes to God (Romans 6:23a). If you and I were to pay our own sin debt to God, we would have to suffer forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But God loves us so much that He sent His only perfect Son to die in our place on the cross. “Jesus did in six hours what no human being can do in all of eternity.” 3  When Christ died on that cross, He gathered to Himself the accumulated debt of a sinful human race and offered to God the full payment for our sins – past, present, and future. Having made the payment, Jesus could say, “It is finished!” – the debt is paid in full. Jesus “paid the very last cent of the wages of our sin.” 4

Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping His commandments, our water baptism, our daily prayers, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin (I John 2:2). 

Soon after Jesus said, “It is finished!” and died, we read, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). “The way to God was now open. Instead of entry being restricted to the high priest entering the Holy of Holies on only one day in the year, entrance into God’s presence was now available to all who came through Christ. With the barrier of our sin taken away, we can now “draw near … through the blood of Christ” (Hebrews 10:22 with Ephesians 2:13).” 5

The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present. There is nothing a Christian can do, say, or think that can change the fact that their sin debt is paid in full today.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has forgiven all your sins – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). The sin debt you owed to God has been “canceled.” If you struggle to believe this let me suggest an exercise for you to do. Grab a pen and paper and write down a list of your worst sins on the left side of the paper and then write “Paid in Full” next to each one. Your list may include:

Abandoning Responsibilities: Paid in Full.

Abortion: Paid in Full.

Adultery: Paid in Full.

Angry outbursts: Paid in Full.

Blasphemy: Paid in Full.

Cheating: Paid in Full.

Failure to love God above all else: Paid in Full.

Gossip: Paid in Full.

Greed: Paid in Full.

Money Laundering: Paid in Full.

Murder: Paid in Full.

Pride: Paid in Full.

Selfishness: Paid in Full.

Sex Trafficking: Paid in Full.

Theft: Paid in Full.

Unforgiveness: Paid in Full. 6

Some of you reading this may be tempted to add your own goodness to the finished work of Christ. You think that if the good in your life outweighs the bad, then you will go to heaven in the future. “After all, God only helps those who help themselves,” you say to yourself. But that saying is not found in the Bible.

Jesus anticipated you might think this way when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult [confined] is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). The way to heaven is “narrow” because it is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, not Jesus plus your good works (cf. John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus says, “there are few who find it.” The majority of people have a propensity to trust in themselves to gain acceptance before God. That is why Jesus said “there are many who go in by” the wide gate that leads to destruction. The “wide gate” is any teaching that denies faith alone in Christ alone as the only hope of heaven. Those teachings reject the full payment of all sin through Jesus Christ.

For those of us who are Christians, this has major implications in evangelism. When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).

Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

We can reflect this truth in evangelism by inviting non-Christians to believe or trust in Christ alone, not Christ plus their good works, to give them a right standing before God (Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16) and everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

This is called grace. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We do not deserve forgiveness or everlasting life. But because of God’s grace, He offers us His forgiveness and everlasting life freely through Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice. Will you trust in Jesus alone to do for you what you could never do on your own? He is waiting for you to come to Him in faith just as You are and then He will forgive all your sins and give you life that never ends (Acts 10:43; John 3:15-16; 11:25-26). And then you can have the assurance that “It is finished!” Your sin debt is paid in full.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for sending Your only perfect Son to pay my sin debt in full when He died on the cross. Your acceptance of His sacrifice was clearly seen when You tore the temple veil from top to bottom, signifying entrance into Your presence for those who believe in Jesus. What an amazing Savior I have. What an amazing Father I have in heaven. Thank You for the blessed assurance that my sin debt is paid in full by my great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please use me now to proclaim this incredible message to those for whom Jesus died and wants to save. To You be all the glory and praise, Father. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pp. 122-123.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 350 cites J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), pg. 630.

3. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 127.

4. Ibid., pg. 136.

5. Ibid., pg. 134.

6. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 132.

A Look into the Future – Part 3 (Video)

This is the third in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the last half of the seven year Tribulation period after the removal of the Church from the earth. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The music in this video is used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

What are the narrow and wide gates in Matthew 7:13-14?

13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction , and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14  [NKJV]

When growing up in the church, I was taught that the “narrow gate” refers to the difficult commands Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:12-7:12). In other words, believe in Jesus as the Messiah and do all these things Jesus has just taught, and you will enter into eternal life. The imagery was that of walking through the narrow gate and continuing on this long, difficult and narrow path of obedience to Christ in order to gain entrance into God’s kingdom. The “wide gate” then was living a life of disobedience.

But since my youth, I have come to a more nontraditional view of these verses which I believe is much more consistent with the original language of these verses and the emphasis of the New Testament.

Jesus said,  13 Enter (eiselthete) by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to (eis + accusative) destruction , and there are many who go in (eiserchomenoi) by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult (tethlimmene) is the way which leads to (eis + accusative) life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Christ is using the commands in the Sermon on the Mount to convict His unbelieving audience (the “multitudes” consisted of believers and unbelievers – Matthew 4:25- 5:2) of their inability to obtain the righteousness required to enter the kingdom of Heaven. These unbelievers must possess a righteousness that is greater than the most righteous people they know – “the scribes and Pharisees.” The only righteousness that God would accept as basis for entrance into His kingdom was the righteousness of God through faith alone in Jesus alone (Romans 3:21- 4:25). Jesus was using the Law and its application in the Sermon on the Mount to convict the unbelieving people of their inability to be righteous enough to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Christ brought them to the point of seeking a righteousness outside of themselves. Like a stern and demanding tutor, the Law was intended to lead people to faith in Christ (Galatians 3:19-24).

That Jesus is thinking specifically of the unbelieving multitude who are standing off in the distance is seen in His reference to kingdom entrance at the beginning (Matthew 5:20) and end of His Sermon (Matthew 7:21). He is speaking in the context of eternity. The phrase “in that day” (7:22) refers to the Day of Judgment for unbelievers. When Christ speaks of entering into “life” or “destruction” (7:13-14), He is thinking of eternal “life” or eternal “destruction.”

The word “difficult” (tethlimmene) in Matthew 7:14 means “confined, narrow.” It has nothing to do with a difficult lifestyle as some teach. The imagery is that you go through a gate and you immediately arrive at the place of destination. In the imagery of that day, you have the gate of a city that does not have a path on the other side of it. The path goes underneath the gate but does not go beyond this point of entrance. So the moment you go through the gate, you are in the city. There is not a long path on the other side of the entrance leading to the city.

The word “enter” (eiserchomenoi) in 7:13 means to “go into.” Matthew never uses this word in this kind of situation in terms of going toward something. It is always used of going directly into something. This is confirmed by the use of the Greek preposition eis, “into” with the accusative. If you were going to use a preposition in the Greek text to talk about going toward something, you would most likely use the word pros, “toward.” But the use of eis (“into”) with eiserchomenoi (“go into”) indicates that you are going through a gate which immediately brings you “into” your place of destination. Jesus is not talking about entering onto a difficult path that will lead to some other destination.

The “narrow gate” refers to the same thing Jesus said in John 10:9 and 14:6:

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

The narrow gate is “narrow” because there is no other way to enter the kingdom of Heaven except through faith alone in Christ alone. The point of entrance is narrow because it alludes to faith in Jesus and no one or nothing else. The way is “confined” or “restricted” in that there is no other way which leads to the Father except through Christ. The “wide gate” in contrast, has many people entering through it because it is a wide entrance which leads immediately into eternal destruction. The “wide gate” represents all the other options in which men say life can be entered, especially confessing Jesus as Lord while relying on your good works (Matthew 7:21-22). But Christ is inviting His unsaved listeners to seek the “narrow gate” which happens to be Himself. There is only one way to Heaven which makes it “narrow.” That way is Jesus and Him alone.

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus responds to His disciples question about greatness in the kingdom by saying, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” In order for people to enter the kingdom of Heaven they must be “converted” or turned away from the cynicism and lack of trust that characterizes most adults and become like children who possess childlike faith. Little children must depend on others to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. Doing the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21) to gain kingdom entrance is choosing to place childlike faith in Jesus Christ to do for yourself what you could never accomplish on your own.

In the context, Jesus is talking about “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (7:15). These false prophets are standing in front of the wide gate that leads into destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Outwardly they may look and sound like Christians (“come to you in sheep’s clothing”). But they are preaching many ways to Heaven except faith alone in Christ alone. Those who believe the false prophet’s message and never trust Christ alone as their only hope of Heaven, will be surprised in the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus says to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23)!

True prophets are standing in front of the “narrow gate” that leads into life (Matthew 7:13-14). They are preaching that the way that leads into eternal life is “narrow” (John 10:9; 14:6). Only faith alone in Christ alone leads to eternal life (John 3:16; 6:40, 47; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:4-6).

Those who teach a faith plus salvation are standing in front of “the wide gate” that leads into eternal destruction. Jesus says, “there are many who go in by it.” But those who teach a faith alone Gospel are standing in front of “the narrow gate” which is too narrow to carry your works baggage through it. Christ says, “there are few who find it.”

Just because a Bible teacher or theologian has a large following does not mean he or she is teaching the right message. There are many false religions in the world today that have millions of followers, but that does mean they have found the “narrow gate” that leads into life everlasting. It is as if Jesus is saying, “Be careful about those who have a large following. They may be standing in front of the wide gate that leads into eternal destruction.”

On the other hand, if a Bible teacher or evangelist has a small following, that does not mean he or she is standing in front of the wide gate that leads to destruction. If his or her message emphasizes that the only condition for everlasting life is faith alone in Christ alone, then he or she is standing in front of the narrow gate that leads into life. Praise God for that person and pray for them to hold fast to the true gospel of Jesus Christ so that many more people can hear and believe it!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for making it clear that You are the narrow gate that leads into life everlasting. Only believing or trusting in You alone gains entrance into the Father’s Kingdom. Help me to point others to You, the narrow gate, with my words and my works as Your grace works within me. Please expose those who stand in front of the wide gate for who they truly are – false prophets who inwardly are ravenous wolves that deceive people to believe that entering Your kingdom is by faith plus works. Please rescue these misled people by sending Your true prophets to them so they may believe in Jesus alone for His free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.