It Is Finished
CHRIST did not yield up His life till He
had accomplished the work which He came to do, and with His parting breath He exclaimed,
"It is finished." John 19:30. The battle had been won. His right hand and His
holy arm had gotten Him the victory. As a Conqueror He planted His banner on the eternal
heights. Was there not joy among the angels? All heaven triumphed in the Saviour's
victory. Satan was defeated, and knew that his kingdom was lost.
To the angels and the
unfallen worlds the cry, "It is finished," had a deep significance. It was for
them as well as for us that the great work of redemption had been accomplished. They with
us share the fruits of Christ's victory.
Not until the death of Christ
was the character of Satan clearly revealed to the angels or to the unfallen worlds. The
archapostate had so clothed himself with deception that even holy beings had not
understood his principles. They had not clearly seen the nature of his rebellion.
It was a being of wonderful
power and glory that had set himself against God. Of Lucifer the Lord says, "Thou
sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." Ezek. 28:12. Lucifer had
been the covering cherub. He had stood in the light of God's presence. He had been the
highest of all created beings, and had been foremost in revealing God's purposes to the
universe. After he had sinned, his power to deceive was the more deceptive, and the
unveiling of his character was the more difficult, because of the exalted position he had
held with the Father.
God could have destroyed
Satan and his sympathizers as easily as one can cast a pebble to the earth; but He did not
do this. Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under
Satan's government. The Lord's principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon
goodness, mercy, and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be
used. God's government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power.
It was God's purpose to place
things on an eternal basis of security, and in the councils of heaven it was decided that
time must be given for Satan to develop the principles which were the foundation of his
system of government. He had claimed that these were superior to God's principles. Time
was given for the working of Satan's principles, that they might be seen by the heavenly
Satan led men into sin, and
the plan of redemption was put in operation. For four thousand years, Christ was working
for man's uplifting, and Satan for his ruin and degradation. And the heavenly universe
beheld it all.
When Jesus came into the
world, Satan's power was turned against Him. From the time when He appeared as a babe in
Bethlehem, the usurper worked to bring about His destruction. In every possible way he
sought to prevent Jesus from developing a perfect childhood, a faultless manhood, a holy
ministry, and an unblemished sacrifice. But he was defeated. He could not lead Jesus into
sin. He could not discourage Him, or drive Him from a work He had come on earth to do.
From the desert to Calvary, the storm of Satan's wrath beat upon Him, but the more
mercilessly it fell, the more firmly did the Son of God cling to the hand of His Father,
and press on in the bloodstained path. All the efforts of Satan to oppress and overcome
Him only brought out in a purer light His spotless character.
All heaven and the unfallen
worlds had been witnesses to the controversy. With what intense interest did they follow
the closing scenes of the conflict. They beheld the Saviour enter the garden of
Gethsemane, His soul bowed down with the horror of a great darkness. They heard His bitter
cry, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." Matt. 26:39. As the
Father's presence was withdrawn, they saw Him sorrowful with a bitterness of sorrow
exceeding that of the last great struggle with death. The bloody sweat was forced from His
pores, and fell in drops upon the ground. Thrice the prayer for deliverance was wrung from
His lips. Heaven could no longer endure the sight, and a messenger of comfort was sent to
the Son of God.
Heaven beheld the Victim
betrayed into the hands of the murderous mob, and with mockery and violence hurried from
one tribunal to another. It heard the sneers of His persecutors because of His lowly
birth. It heard the denial with cursing and swearing by one of His best-loved disciples.
It saw the frenzied work of Satan, and his power over the hearts of men. Oh, fearful
scene! the Saviour seized at midnight in Gethsemane, dragged to and fro from palace to
judgment hall, arraigned twice before the priests, twice before the Sanhedrin, twice
before Pilate, and once before Herod, mocked, scourged, condemned, and led out to be
crucified, bearing the heavy burden of the cross, amid the wailing of the daughters of
Jerusalem and the jeering of the rabble.
Heaven viewed with grief and
amazement Christ hanging upon the cross, blood flowing from His wounded temples, and sweat
tinged with blood standing upon His brow. From His hands and feet the blood fell, drop by
drop, upon the rock drilled for the foot of the cross. The wounds made by the nails gaped
as the weight of His body dragged upon His hands. His labored breath grew quick and deep,
as His soul panted under the burden of the sins of the world. All heaven was filled with
wonder when the prayer of Christ was offered in the midst of His terrible
suffering,--"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34.
Yet there stood men, formed in the image of God, joining to crush out the life of His
only-begotten Son. What a sight for the heavenly universe!
The principalities and powers
of darkness were assembled around the cross, casting the hellish shadow of unbelief into
the hearts of men. When the Lord created these beings to stand before His throne, they
were beautiful and glorious. Their loveliness and holiness were in accordance with their
exalted station. They were enriched with the wisdom of God, and girded with the panoply of
heaven. They were Jehovah's ministers. But who could recognize in the fallen angels the
glorious seraphim that once ministered in the heavenly courts?
Satanic agencies confederated
with evil men in leading the people to believe Christ the chief of sinners, and to make
Him the object of detestation. Those who mocked Christ as He hung upon the cross were
imbued with the spirit of the first great rebel. He filled them with vile and loathsome
speeches. He inspired their taunts. But by all this he gained nothing.
Could one sin have been found
in Christ, had He in one particular yielded to Satan to escape the terrible torture, the
enemy of God and man would have triumphed. Christ bowed His head and died, but He held
fast His faith and His submission to God. "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His
Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God
day and night." Rev. 12:10.
Satan saw that his disguise
was torn away. His administration was laid open before the unfallen angels and before the
heavenly universe. He had revealed himself as a murderer. By shedding the blood of the Son
of God, he had uprooted himself from the sympathies of the heavenly beings. Henceforth his
work was restricted. Whatever attitude he might assume, he could no longer await the
angels as they came from the heavenly courts, and before them accuse Christ's brethren of
being clothed with the garments of blackness and the defilement of sin. The last link of
sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.
Yet Satan was not then
destroyed. The angels did not even then understand all that was involved in the great
controversy. The principles at stake were to be more fully revealed. And for the sake of
man, Satan's existence must be continued. Man as well as angels must see the contrast
between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness. He must choose whom he will serve.
In the opening of the great
controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was
inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for
the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God
should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men
broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that
the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion,
had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out
from God's favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner.
But even as a sinner, man was
in a different position from that of Satan. Lucifer in heaven had sinned in the light of
God's glory. To him as to no other created being was given a revelation of God's love.
Understanding the character of God, knowing His goodness, Satan chose to follow his own
selfish, independent will. This choice was final. There was no more that God could do to
save him. But man was deceived; his mind was darkened by Satan's sophistry. The height and
depth of the love of God he did not know. For him there was hope in a knowledge of God's
love. By beholding His character he might be drawn back to God.
Through Jesus, God's mercy
was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the
attributes of God's character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man
in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ,
for man's redemption. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." 2
The law requires
righteousness,--a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He
cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a
holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who
will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins
that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the
attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine
character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness
of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can "be just, and the
justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Rom. 3:26.
God's love has been expressed
in His justice no less than in His mercy. Justice is the foundation of His throne, and the
fruit of His love. It had been Satan's purpose to divorce mercy from truth and justice. He
sought to prove that the righteousness of God's law is an enemy to peace. But Christ shows
that in God's plan they are indissolubly joined together; the one cannot exist without the
other. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each
other." Ps. 85:10.
By His life and His death,
Christ proved that God's justice did not destroy His mercy, but that sin could be
forgiven, and that the law is righteous, and can be perfectly obeyed. Satan's charges were
refuted. God had given man unmistakable evidence of His love.
Another deception was now to
be brought forward. Satan declared that mercy destroyed justice, that the death of Christ
abrogated the Father's law. Had it been possible for the law to be changed or abrogated,
then Christ need not have died. But to abrogate the law would be to immortalize
transgression, and place the world under Satan's control. It was because the law was
changeless, because man could be saved only through obedience to its precepts, that Jesus
was lifted up on the cross. Yet the very means by which Christ established the law Satan
represented as destroying it. Here will come the last conflict of the great controversy
between Christ and Satan.
That the law which was spoken
by God's own voice is faulty, that some specification has been set aside, is the claim
which Satan now puts forward. It is the last great deception that he will bring upon the
world. He needs not to assail the whole law; if he can lead men to disregard one precept,
his purpose is gained. For "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one
point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10. By consenting to break one precept, men are
brought under Satan's power. By substituting human law for God's law, Satan will seek to
control the world. This work is foretold in prophecy. Of the great apostate power which is
the representative of Satan, it is declared, "He shall speak great words against the
Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and
laws: and they shall be given into his hand." Dan. 7:25.
Men will surely set up their
laws to counterwork the laws of God. They will seek to compel the consciences of others,
and in their zeal to enforce these laws they will oppress their fellow men.
The warfare against God's
law, which was begun in heaven, will be continued until the end of time. Every man will be
tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. All
will be called to choose between the law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing
line will be drawn. There will be but two classes. Every character will be fully
developed; and all will show whether they have chosen the side of loyalty or that of
Then the end will come. God
will vindicate His law and deliver His people. Satan and all who have joined him in
rebellion will be cut off. Sin and sinners will perish, root and branch, (Mal.
4:1),--Satan the root, and his followers the branches. The word will be fulfilled to the
prince of evil, "Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; . . . I will
destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. . . . Thou shalt be
a terror, and never shalt thou be any more." Then "the wicked shall not be: yea,
thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be;" "they shall be
as though they had not been." Ezek. 28:6-19; Ps. 37:10; Obadiah 16.
This is not an act of
arbitrary power on the part of God. The rejecters of His mercy reap that which they have
sown. God is the fountain of life; and when one chooses the service of sin, he separates
from God, and thus cuts himself off from life. He is "alienated from the life of
God." Christ says, "All they that hate Me love death." Eph. 4:18; Prov.
8:36. God gives them existence for a time that they may develop their character and reveal
their principles. This accomplished, they receive the results of their own choice. By a
life of rebellion, Satan and all who unite with him place themselves so out of harmony
with God that His very presence is to them a consuming fire. The glory of Him who is love
will destroy them.
At the beginning of the great
controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host then been left to
reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been
apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God's
goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of
sin and woe.
But not so when the great
controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the
character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are
seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his
character. Then the extermination of sin will vindicate God's love and establish His honor
before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law.
Well, then, might the angels
rejoice as they looked upon the Saviour's cross; for though they did not then understand
all, they knew that the destruction of sin and Satan was forever made certain, that the
redemption of man was assured, and that the universe was made eternally secure. Christ
Himself fully comprehended the results of the sacrifice made upon Calvary. To all these He
looked forward when upon the cross He cried out, "It is finished."