When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30

When God describes His final redemption chapter in Scripture, He simplifies the revelation. The most obvious difference between complex human theories and God’s revelation stands out in this passage. Father assigned the role of active dominion to Jesus (Matthew 11:27; 28:18; John 3:35) and He came down from heaven to accomplish a specific task. Jesus returned to the Father after completing what the Father assigned to Him, with the seal of “Mission Accomplished”.

Jesus was a man on a mission. He was in a mission to seek and save those who were lost. He was in a mission to set the captive free. He was in a mission to give His life as a ransom for many. When Jesus was making His final trip from Galilee to Jerusalem, He took the twelve aside and began telling them the things that would happen to Him. “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:18-19). That was a sobering warning, but they didn’t get it. His closest friends; James and John started arguing about their inheritance in the kingdom. Then Jesus called them together and said, “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

Jesus, the ransom from heaven

Jesus said something that is significant for our understanding of the atonement –giving His life as a ransom. The Greek word used here for ransom is λύτρον (lýtron) means the price to free a slave or a captive. The concept of ransom tied to the biblical term redemption, and the one who takes action to set another free is a redeemer. At the Beginning of His ministry, we read in Luke 4:18, Jesus went into the synagogue and read a portion of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners….” (Isaiah 61:1-2). Then He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v21).

Isaiah foretold the ministry of Jesus -to release the captive, to set at liberty those who were in bondage. He would do it by paying a ransom. In the cross where Jesus made His atonement for His elect, He satisfied the demands of God’s justice. Jesus provided the surety for our debt, offering Himself as a substitute taking the full wrath of God. This was His mission on earth: to set the captive free by offering Himself as a ransom.

To whom Jesus paid the ransom?

One of the views of the atonement in the church history is known as the “ransom theory”. This theory has been expressed in two different and conflicting ways. The first view holds that in the cross, Jesus paid a ransom to Satan because Satan held fallen man under bondage. The price tag for the ransom is set by the kidnapper, the slaveholder. Satan was the kidnapper, he is the enemy of God, and Christ came and paid a ransom to the Devil to set us free. That’s the wrong view.

The Bible clearly calls attention to the Christ’s victory of the atonement, by which He achieved a cosmic victory over powers and principalities, conquering the Devil and ending his power over us. The kidnapper usually does not want permanent possession of his victim; rather he wants the ransom and release the hostage. If Satan got the ransom, he wins. If Christ paid the ransom to Satan to deliver us from Satan’s bondage, who is the victor? It must be Satan and not the Christ. But, Scripture tells us that Christ gained the victory over Satan at the cross. Jesus didn’t negotiate with Satan for our redemption.

Ransom is to be paid not to the criminal but to the One who is owed the price of redemption, the One who is the offended party. God is the offended party. The ransom was paid not to Satan but to God, because God was the One who had to be satisfied. God is the one who dictates the terms in this transaction, and Satan is just a puppet under God’s sovereign plan. God was the One who set the price tag. God’s truth and justice demanded that only the death of His Son could pay for our sin. That is the mission of Christ on this earth -to pay the ransom demanded by Holy God, for violating His precepts, violating His moral law.

God sends violators of His law to Hell

The mythology that pervasive in the culture, and sadly even in the church today is even though we are at enmity with God, God still loves us. Yes, God loves everyone in one sense but not in the redemptive sense. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that until we remain unreconciled to God, God abhors us. You may have heard some preachers say, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” This is a very misleading statement because it implies that God doesn’t hate the sinner which is not true -God hates the sinners. He actually sends the sinner to Hell, and not the sin. The only way to be reconciled to God is through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

The mission accomplished

On the cross when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). The word in this verse, “finished,” is from the Greek word, Τετέλεσται (Tetelestai) which means “paid in full” It is the same accounting term that means “Paid In Full” when the last installment of the debt is paid off. The significance of Christ’s whole life comes to this moment. He said ‘It is Finished’. Not that His life is finished, but His mission is finished; His purpose has been accomplished.

Lord Jesus Christ paid the ransom in full to the father to redeem His people from Satan’s captivity, to secure the release of His people, who were held captive to sin. The reason for His existence on this earth has now been fulfilled. He has done it all, so that we don’t have to do it anymore. When His mission is accomplished, when the atonement is finished Jesus gave His life. No body took His life, He decided to give it up. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again (John 10:18).

NOTE: The Final Act of Redemption

It is important to note that God’s work of redemption remain unfinished until He has fully claimed bodies of His beloved children that He purchased when He paid the price of redemption. In fact, Scripture associates “redemption” with the resurrection (Hosea 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:55-56; Eph. 1:14). When God raises our bodies and glorifies them in the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ, only then shall redemption be completed. Redemption’s price was fully paid in Jesus’ death. It will be completed when God fully claims and take possession of the last purchased soul on this earth.

The Veil Was Torn in Two

Matthew 27:51 says, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”. This is the veil that separated the Holy of Holies in the temple. Only the high priest allowed to go pass this veil once per year to enter the presence of God (the Arc of Covenant) to make sacrifice (sin atonement) on behalf of Israel. This is the symbolic of the fact that people were shut out of God’s presence. But at the moment Jesus said, “It is finished” and gave up His spirit, God Himself ripped that curtain from top to bottom and made the Holy of Holies open to everyone. The tearing of the veil symbolizes that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, was sufficient for the sinners’ atonement.

No more high priests. No more priests. No more sacrifices. No more barrier. God was through with the religious system. Later as Jesus predicted “Not one stone will be left on another. Every stone will be thrown down to the ground” (Mark 13:2), the temple was crushed to the ground by the Roman army, and to this day, never to be rebuilt. The Old Covenant is done with and the New Covenant is established. Now Christ is our High priest, and we can approach Holy God with confidence and boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16) only through Christ, through Faith. The death of Christ on the cross has destroyed the work-based religion.

If anyone teaches that you need to participate in sacraments, ceremonies and good works to be saved, that’s a lie straight from the hell. There are many churches led by Satan preach such false gospel today leading countless people to hell. What they are actually trying to do is, to saw back up the torn temple curtain. They are trying to block the new and living, the access created by Jesus Christ for us to God. They do not deny the grace entirely, but add human works to it. Salvation is not by faith plus works. It’s not a cooperative effort between the sinner and God – God does a little, and you do a little. But, the Bible is crystal clear that salvation is totally a work of God, and all the sinner contributes is simply an open hand.

There is only one ground on which a sinner is accepted in the presence of a holy God. That is, based on the “righteousness of God in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:19-24). It is a righteousness wholly outside the sinner, accomplished by Christ on the cross, and imputed to him through the faith in the Savior. The only “work” left for us to do today is believe that all the work Christ has done to save us is finished.

Additional Resources:

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, By Jonathan Edwards
Jesus: The Greatest Life of All, By Dr. Charles R. Swindoll
The Truth of The Cross, By Dr. R.C. Sproul