God's Plan Has Been In Process, Jesus' Work Is Now Finished, And It Will Remain Finished, with Continuing Effects (Greek Perfect Tense, Koine)
The Greek Perfect Tense in the Bible is only used a handful of times in the New Testament; and unlike our English verb tenses, the Greek perfect tense holds three layers of meaning within it's form.
One way of stating the full meaning of the perfect tense is this: it is both punctiliar and linear, or, in other words, it is both happening at a point and time (punctiliar) and ongoing in time (linear).
I also like to describe the perfect tense verb as having 3 layers of meaning all within the one word.
1st layer - The action has been in process.
2nd layer - The action has just been completed.
3rd layer - The action will remain completed, with its continuing effects.
When it was written that Jesus said "Tetelestai," the word tetelestai, the Greek word for "finished" or for "fulfilled" was written in the rare perfect tense.
Let's look at the layers:
1st layer - Jesus' work has been in process of being finished.
2nd layer - Jesus' work is now completed. His work is finished.
3rd layer - This completion will remain completed, with continuing effects.
"It is finished" is 3 words sharing 3 layers of truth. The work and the purpose of Christ had been in process. Christ's work was finished at his last words on the cross. His work will remain finished, along with its continuing effects.
(One other time the perfect tense was used in the New Testament was when Jesus announced the nearing of the kingdom of God at the very beginning of His ministry. It was his first teaching we have written down in the New Testament. I wrote a blog about that teaching and the perfect tense HERE.)
Long ago in the year 1686, Matthew Henry began preaching. He was 24 years old, and he continued to preach and to pour over scripture - word by word and phrase by phrase - until his death at the age of 51. Henry wrote this in response to Jesus' last spoken word on the cross:
"It is finished; that is, the counsels of the Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled.
It is finished; all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished.
It is finished; the ceremonial law is abolished; the substance is now come; and all the shadows are done away.
It is finished; an end is made of transgression, by bringing in an everlasting righteousness.
His sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul, and of his body.
It is finished; the work of man's redemption and his salvation is now completed."
As poignant as Henry's words were, there is even more to grasp, for with this word "finished," we are informed of the ongoing nature of our salvation. Tetelestai, the completion of Jesus' work was not just for that point in time; and not just for His followers and close friends at the cross.
The Bible tells us, "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
This is true only because of what happened at the point in time that Jesus spoke "It is finished" and what happened three days later. And this remains true and has remained true from that point in time until now.
His work on the cross was a plan in process for hundreds of generations.
His work on the cross was completed on the mount of Golgatha in 33 A.D.
His work on the cross remains completed to this day, for those who believe, to be assured of their place amongst the family of God.
Tetelestai - it more than just a place of completion. Is is now our place of confidence and hope.
Tetelestai is our resting place. It was finished at the cross. It is still finished today.
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