Tetelestai – It is a Greek word that is packed with meaning and Good News for us – if we will accept it.
In the original Greek language of John 19:30 in the New Testament of the Bible is found one Greek word: “Tetelestai.” Tetelestai doesn’t translate simply, and so they had to make a phrase out of it. The phrase that was made is: “It is finished.”
“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” (Gr. tetelestai) And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” – John 19:30
In the Greek it implies that something has come to an end; it has been completed, perfected, accomplished in the full, the effects of which will endure on and on.
“Tetelestai” is the most powerful single word of all of Jesus’ ministry. It was also his LAST word spoken from the cross. It was the word that turned this apparent tragedy into a scene of Victory that shook the earth, split rocks, changed history and tore away the temple curtain that separated us from God.
In the Greek, the word tetelestai is an artist’s word. It is the word an artist uses when he stands before one of his creations and says, “Tetelestai, it is finished; I cannot add anything more to it. It is complete.”
It is also a builder’s word. It is the word he uses when he hands over the keys of a new building and says, “Tetelestai, it is finished; I have done everything according to the plan. It is complete.”
But the word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times. This one word has been found written across several ancient tax documents. The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this: “Receipts are often introduced by the phrase [sic] tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner…” (p. 630). But why would they write “It is finished” on a tax document or receipt?
It is because “Tetelestai” also means… “PAID IN FULL.”
The connection between receipts and what Christ accomplished would have been quite clear to John’s Greek-speaking audience; and it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins – and for ours.
“And He Himself is the propitiation [or ‘atoning sacrifice’] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2
“After this, when Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, ‘I thirst.’ Then when He had received the sour wine Jesus said, “Tetelestai” [Paid in Full] – and He bowed His head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30).
On the cross, our sins were “Paid in Full” by Jesus, the Son of God!
His payment will cover OUR sins when we accept His gift on His terms by: placing our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ so that our sins can be washed away by His blood (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Won’t you allow Him to release you from the debt of sin?
—David Sargent & Mike Eddlemon
Church of Christ; Creekwood