What was Jesus’ last word, uttered as He gave His last breath at the Cross? We read about it in The Bible:
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30)
In your mind, transport yourself back in time, to Jerusalem, circa 33 AD, at Mount Calvary. You’re in the crowd, watching as Jesus was crucified. Jesus’s last word was not “it is finished”, because the English language did exist yet. Jesus’ last word that you would have heard that day was the incredibly amazing Greek word:
What does “tetelestai”, mean? It is a form of the Greek root word, “teleo” which means, “to fulfil, to accomplish”. But what is so striking is that tetelestai is the word “teleo” in the perfect tense of the verb.
The perfect tense signifies that an action has been completed once, with results for all time. It is the exact opposite of the continuous tense, which signifies an action carried out continuously, without an end.
For instance, a man and wife get married on one specific day, at one specific time. Ever since that one day, that couple has been married ever since. Do they need to keep getting married over and over again to stay married? No. That one act, performed at one time results in being in that state from then on. That’s the perfect tense of “to marry”. Contrast that with the continuous tense of a verb. For instance, I need to brush and floss my teeth daily to keep them in a state of being clean. This is certainly not perfect tense, which would mean I would just have to brush and floss once and they are clean from that time on (though I wish that was the case!)
When Jesus uttered that glorious word, “tetelestai” from the cross, He used the perfect, not continuous tense of the word teleo, (to complete or fulfill). And what did Jesus’ last word tetelestai mean for us?
ALL is completely fulfilled… FOREVER!
And this powerful truth gloriously borne out throughout the book of Hebrews, particularly in chapter 10:
5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come— In the volume of the book it is written of Me— To do Your will, O God.’ ” 8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Heb 10:5–10.
Jesus’ telestai fulfilled so many things. Hebrews goes into the depths of this. (To learn more, listen to my series, Hebrews: the Glory of the New Covenant). In addition, Jesus’ telestai also completely fulfilled what He said in Matthew 5:17-18
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
I used to think (like many Christians do) that what Jesus meant when He said, “till all is fulfilled” meant some time way in the distant future. But that is not true. Remember, the Bible is the best interpreter of itself. Too many Christians disregard Jesus’ perfect, finished work (expressed as “tetelestai”) when interpreting scripture. This is a fatal flaw. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
The Lord Jesus Christ, in all of His perfection, perfectly satisfied the demands of perfect righteousness, perfectly obeying His Father perfectly fulfilling all the prophecies and perfectly settling the Law… forever. He didn’t destroy the law, He perfectly fulfilled it! Hebrews 10:9 says, “then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second.”
ALL is completely fulfilled… FOREVER!
Dear Christian, your Christian life begins with the reality and totality of Christ’s tetelestai for you! That’s because:
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)