“It is finished” is a translation of the Greek word tetelestai, the perfect indicative passive tense of the word telos, which means to end; to bring to completion; to bring to a conclusion; to complete; to accomplish; to fulfill; or to finish. One scholar notes that anything that has reached telos has arrived at completion, maturity, or perfection. There were many nuances to this word, but four or them have great significance with this defining moment of Christ’s sacrifice.

First, this was Jesus’ exclamation that He had finished the work the Father had sent Him to do. The work having been fully completed, Jesus bowed His head and died. One writer has noted that when a servant was sent on a mission and then later returned to his master, he would say, “Telelestai,” meaning, I have done exactly what you requested” or “The mission is now accomplished.”

In that moment when Jesus cried out, he was exclaiming to the entire universe that He had faithfully fulfilled the Father’s will and that the mission was now accomplished. No wonder Jesus shouted ¾ for this was the greatest victory in the history of the human race! He had been faithful to His assignment even in the face of unfathomable challenges. But now the fight was over, and Jesus could cry out to the Father, “I have done exactly what You asked Me to do!” or “The mission is accomplished!”

Second, the word tetelestai was the equivalent of the Hebrew word spoken by the high priest when he presented a sacrificial lamb without spot or blemish. Annually the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, where he poured the blood of that sacrificial spotless lamb on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The moment that blood touched the mercy seat, atonement was made for the people’s sins for one more year ¾ when once again, the high priest would enter beyond the veil of that sacred room to offer blood. This was done year after year to obtain the annual, temporary forgiveness of sin.

But when Jesus hung on the Cross, He was both Lamb and High Priest. In that holy moment as our Great High Priest, Jesus offered His own blood for the permanent removal of sin. He offered up the perfect sacrifice of which every Mosaic sacrifice was a type and symbol - and in that instant, there remained no more need of offering for sin.

Jesus entered into the Holy Place and offered His own blood - a sacrifice so complete that God never again required the blood of lambs for forgiveness. As Hebrews 9:12 says, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

Thus, when Jesus said, “It is finished!” He was declaring the end of sacrifice, because the ultimate Sacrifice had finally been made! Atonement was completed, perfected, and fully accomplished. It was done once and for all - finished forever!

Third, in a secular sense, the word tetelestai was used in the business world to signify the full payment of a debt. When a debt had been fully paid off, the parchment on which the debt was recorded was stamped with tetelestai, which meant the debt had been paid in full. This means that once a person calls Jesus the Lord of His life and personally accepts His sacrifice, no debt of sin exists for that person any longer. The debt is wiped out because Jesus paid the price for sin that no sinner could ever pay.

Jesus took our place. He paid the debt of sin we owed. And when we by faith repent and receive Him as Lord, we are set free! This is why Paul wrote, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).