This article first appeared as a meditation by Rev.Herman Veldman in The Standard Bearer, March 15, 1980 issue (vol.56, #12).
"It Is Finished. "
This sixth crossword is a cry of victory. It is such in connection with the kingdom of darkness. The onslaughts of darkness near their end. Throughout Jesus' life, culminating upon the cross, these forces of sin and darkness have spent themselves in their rage upon this Jesus of Nazareth. All this now nears its end. And the world has sealed its own condemnation. Jesus has suffered as the Righteous One. God, the Judge of heaven and earth, will surely vindicate Him. Indeed, the world's condemnation is sealed and the prince of this world has been cast out.
Besides being a shout of victory this sixth crossword is also all comprehensive and complete. It reaches out to the full salvation of all God's people, to the entire Old Dispensation, into the eternal counsel of the Lord God. It, also embraces the everlasting future. No word is more pleasing to the Father, sweeter to the angels, more blessed for sinners, more terrible for the devil, richer for the Son. It embraces the eternal past and the eternal future, the reunion of heaven and earth. It represents for Jesus the end of all His suffering, this wonderful cry of victory.
What is finished?
The cross, of course, does not conclude the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. He must still descend into the grave, ascend to heaven, rule over all things in heaven and on earth (the entire New Dispensation is a coming of the Lord Jesus Christ), return upon the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and the dead. It is true that, in a certain real sense, also all this was accomplished upon the cross. Yet, all these things must still occur.
What is finished here is all Christ's suffering effecting perfect reconciliation. Reconciliation, a legal concept, expresses a change in the legal relation between two parties in which that which interfered with their fellowship is removed and the basis is laid for the resumption of this fellowship. Reconciliation does not imply a change in God. According to the Word of God, God is never reconciled, only the world; and the world never does the reconciling, only God.
At Calvary God is not reconciled with us but we are reconciled with God. God has established eternally His covenant in Christ. He is the sovereignly appointed Head, and in Him the Lord loved a people with an everlasting love. Only, to realize this covenant of friendship, the Lord willed the way of sin and grace. Hence, according to this eternal decree, this elect people, in the way of their own willful disobedience, fall into sin. They therefore become in themselves the objects of divine wrath, although God loves them eternally in Christ Jesus. And if we are to enjoy God's covenant friendship, then a sacrifice must be brought which balances completely with sin according to the righteousness of God. Reconciliation, now, is that act of God whereby in unfathomable love and in harmony with His righteousness the Lord establishes the basis for this covenant fellowship between Himself and His own upon the cross of Calvary. Calvary is, therefore, an act of the unfathomable, unchangeable love of God.
Unto that end God determined in His counsel all the suffering of the Saviour. Every step of this suffering is divinely determined. Step by step, Christ descends into the depths. He could not be crucified immediately after entering upon His public ministry. He suffered all His life. And now His suffering reaches its culmination at the end of His life. The betrayal of Judas, every word and all the hatred of the enemy, the driving of the nails, the prayer upon the cross, the parting of His raiment, His thirst upon the cross, all the mockery and ridicule and railing of the world — all this was divinely determined. Indeed, the Son of Man suffered and died as it was written of Him and determined by His God. How otherwise could the Old Testament be the program for Jesus' suffering?
Besides, this suffering is also pictured to us in the Old Testament prophecy. This does not merely mean that Christ simply fulfilled what was written of Him. But prophecy is Christ as He speaks of Himself as He was to come. The Old Testament needed this prophecy. Christ was not yet in the Old Dispensation, and the people of God of the old day took hold of the Christ as He was to come. And this prophecy concerning Christ proclaims to us that all things occur according to God's own sovereign will. How rich is this content of the Old Testament prophecy! We need not call attention to this in detail. Genesis 3:15; the lamentations of David in Psalms 22, 41, 69, 89; the lifting up of the brazen serpent by Moses; and the climatic presentation in Is. 50-53, all speak so vividly of the suffering Servant of Jehovah. Besides this, we have this suffering held before us in all the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
How was this finished?
The Subject of this suffering is personally the living God. Does not Is. 54:5 speak of the Holy One of Israel as our Redeemer? Only, He is the Holy One of Israel Who suffers in our flesh and blood. Our Heidelberg Catechism speaks of Him as a very and righteous man and as truly God. He must bear the infinite and eternal wrath of God in perfect love and obedience. To do this, He must be really God and also very and righteous man. He must die, not for His own sin (He had none) but for the sins of others. And He must merit everlasting life and righteousness. This was possible only by God Himself.
How did He finish this awesome task?
Indeed, He finished this work throughout His entire life. At His birth, in His incarnation, He voluntarily placed Himself in our guilty relation to God's law. He took upon Himself all our sicknesses and diseases, symbolic of the fact that He would bear the curse of God upon all our sins upon the cross of Calvary. This, however, occurred particularly at the end of His life. Voluntarily He set His face towards Jerusalem already at His baptism by John. In the upper room He commands Judas to do quickly what he was ordained to do. Although He sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane, He nevertheless reveals that He is the Lord also of His captors and they can do nothing but His will. Before Caiaphas He compels the high priest to ask Him whether He is the Christ, and voluntarily He seals His own condemnation with the answer that He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. In wonderful obedience to His task, He reminds Pilate that he would have no power except it were given him from above, and He submits Himself to the governor's sentence of death upon the cross because the cross is the symbol of the bearing of the wrath of God. Upon the cross He gives His life, but not until all has been finished. The flood of God's eternal wrath rolls upon and over His soul. As the chiefest of sinners, crucified between two malefactors, and as a lamb opening not its mouth, He bears in full consciousness and in perfect love all the billows of the wrath of God. He pours out His life, body and soul, as the Thirsting Fountain.
And now hear the cry of victory: It is Finished. The entire program of suffering has been fulfilled. All the righteousness of God has been satisfied. Our righteousness has been accomplished, all our debt paid and everlasting life merited. Indeed, Calvary's victory cry is well-founded. The awesomely fearful night is past! No prophetic suffering is left unfulfilled. Sion is reconciled with God. The basis for God's covenant has been laid. All suffering is past for this suffering Servant of Jehovah! Everlasting bliss and blessedness are at hand!
Jesus' suffering and death were committed upon Him by the world. This applies; first of all, to our Lord Himself. It is, of course, true that He was crucified according to God's eternal counsel and decree. All history, we understand, is the unfolding of God's eternal decree. Nothing happens by chance. This is also true of the cross. The apostle Peter sets this forth in his Pentecostal address, as in Acts 2:23: "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." And this applies to Christ's suffering upon the cross in all its terrible details. Indeed, this is also our only comfort. Upon the cross God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.
Nevertheless, Jesus was slain by wicked hands. God's counsel and Man's responsibility must always be maintained. The sinner is a moral, rational creature and he always sins willfully and deliberately. Judas betrays the Christ because Christ is light and he loves the darkness. The world crucified Him, according to God's decree, but as an act of hatred and darkness.
And this applies throughout the ages. Yes, the world will always bend the knee before a humanitarian Christ. The Christ they serve, however, is a Christ of their own imagination. The Christ of the cross, Who came to do the will of Him Who sent Him, interested solely in the cause of God's covenant, they hate and will always oppose.
But, this also establishes the terribleness of this sixth word of the cross. This cry of victory is surely the announcement of Sion's victory and eternal salvation. The curse of God has been borne and Christ has triumphed. In all His suffering and death He was the perfectly Righteous One. Therefore He is raised from the dead and exalted at the Father's right hand. But this same shout of triumph is also the announcement of the condemnation of the world. It may appear different at the cross and throughout the New Dispensation. It may appear as though the forces of darkness are in command and have the victory. But it is exactly otherwise. God justified His Servant presently because of His perfect obedience. And the world has revealed itself in all its evil and corruption. Hence, their destruction is sealed and sure.
The crucified Saviour is our complete salvation. This fact is symbolized in the temple by the tearing of the veil from the top to the bottom at the moment Jesus gives up the ghost. The way is now open into the holy of holies. The sin that made separation between the Lord and His people has now been removed. All our debt is paid and our complete righteousness has been won. The Lord was indeed in Christ reconciling the world, His own elect world, with Himself. All has been fulfilled.
The result is that all work of man is vain. O, there are always those who would maintain this work of man. Roman Catholicism would maintain that our good works are meritorious. Arminianism and Pelagianism emphasize the will of a sinner as determining his salvation. However, all this is vain. Salvation is not of works. It is given us by grace through faith. And faith is a gift of God. Hence, saved by grace through faith, because of Christ's finished work upon the cross, we must look away from ourselves and to Him Who is the Captain of our salvation. No flesh may boast. Let us ever glory in the Lord.
Rev. Herman Veldman (1908-1997) was born in Chicago, IL on April 22, 1908. He attended the Protestant Reformed Seminary, graduating in 1932. He was ordained into the ministry in September of that year.
He served in the following Protestant Reformed Churches:
Pella, Iowa - 1932-37
Creston, Grand Rapids, Michigan - 1937-41
Kalamazoo, Michigan - 1941-50
Hamilton, ON Canada - 1950-51
First, Edgerton, Minnesota - 1953-1959
Hope, Redlands, California - 1959-63
Hope, Walker, Michigan - 1963-66
Hudsonville, Michigan - 1966-1971
Southwest, Wyoming, Michigan - 1971-78
He received emeritation in 1978 and passed into glory on January 22, 1997.