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paid in full

Paid In Full

Jesus’ last words on earth were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). But this phrase is far more powerful than “I’m done. It’s over. I give up.” In that simple statement, Jesus was declaring the full atoning power of His sacrifice. The price for our sin had been paid in full!

It is Finished Forever

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’…So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”

John 19:28, 30

The Greek word for “it is finished” is tetelestai. This word is in the perfect tense, a verb tense that doesn’t have a literal English translation. Therefore, Jesus was declaring that His perfect work is finished now and forever, in an ongoing manner, for all eternity!

Paid in Full

Businessmen of Jesus’ day used the term tetelestai in the marketplace, where it meant paid in full. If someone owed money and then settled the debt, a receipt would be marked tetelestai, paid in full.

More importantly, Jesus’ sacrifice fully paid our debt of sin once and for all. And only His perfect sacrifice is sufficient to cancel the wages of sin we owed (Romans 6:23). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was announcing that the wrath of God, which we deserved, had been fully satisfied in Him.

Your Sentence Has Been Served

Likewise, in biblical times, a list of charges was nailed to the doorpost of a prisoner’s cell. That way everyone walking by knew exactly why that person was in prison. The jailers displayed the rap sheet for all to see.

After the prisoner served their sentence, they would take that list of charges to the judge. Then, the judge would mark it tetelestai. That word confirmed that the sentence was served, the captivity was over, the punishment was done.

If anyone ever questioned the former prisoner, they could show the list of charges marked tetelestai. This proved the person was no longer a prisoner but a free man or woman.

Paul wrote in Colossians:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14, emphasis added).

The New Living Translation phrases it, “He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (NLT, emphasis added).

Yet another version says, “Having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us” (NASB, emphasis added).

So, you see, Jesus took the list of charges against us off the doorpost of our lives and nailed it to His own cross. He took our punishment on Himself. He served our sentence!

The Perfect Sacrifice

There’s even more to this powerful phrase. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites had to make sin offerings, the animals had to be perfect specimens. You couldn’t just grab the weakest little lamb or a half-dead dove.

The priest would inspect the sacrifice to be sure it was without spot or blemish. Interestingly, the priest didn’t inspect the person who had sinned. He wouldn’t ask for a resume or an explanation. The only thing that mattered was the quality of the sacrifice.

If he determined the sacrifice to be perfect, the priest would offer the animal as atonement for the sin. Then he would declare, “It is finished.”

Similarly, Jesus is our perfect sacrifice. As John the Baptist put it, He is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Unlike the sin offerings of the Old Covenant, Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all (Hebrews 10:10). We don’t need to keep atoning for sin. Jesus doesn’t need to keep dying. It is finished!

Complete and Victorious

Today if you look up the word tetelestai, you’ll see the definition “it is completed.” Not only did Christ complete His atoning work on the cross, He completed us!

“You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10).

When your body tries to tell you you’re sick, tell it that you’re complete in Christ. If your bank account looks empty and you’re not sure you have the funds to make it through, remind yourself that you’re complete in Christ. When your mind is broken with fear or anxiety, fight back with the truth that you’re complete in Christ.Tetelestai! It is finished. I am complete!”

Jesus’ final cry was a shout of victory. For instance, tetelestai was a battle cry for the military, a declaration that the enemy was fully defeated. Our enemy was defeated by Jesus 2,000 years ago. We have complete victory!

Tell the Enemy It’s Paid in Full

Therefore, when the enemy comes, remember it is finished. Wave that receipt is his face and tell him your debt was paid in full. When that snake tries to throw charges and accusations against you, tell him that Jesus nailed those charges to the cross. He already served your sentence! Your punishment is over. Refuse to be a captive any longer.

If your shortcomings weigh on your conscience, meditate on the truth that Jesus is your perfect sacrifice. God the Father has declared Him perfect. As a result, you can point to the quality of your sacrifice—Jesus, the Lamb of God—and stop looking at yourself.

If your body or finances or circumstances don’t align with Jesus’ finished work, take heart. You are complete in Him! You lack nothing. The battle is over. Total victory is yours.

In conclusion: It is finished! Tetelestai!

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