I’m excited about today’s post. It’s a little different than what I’ve written in the past–what it does is lay a conceptual framework for the way that God and time interact, and then draws some truths from that. For ease of reading, I’ve put two headings in place: Conceptual Framework and Practical Application. As always, I want to hear your thoughts, reactions, things you liked or didn’t like, and anything else. Comment, reach out on social media, or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)! [And it is purely coincidental that this post on time comes the same weekend as the Doctor Who 50th anniversary]
There are three words that have gone down in history, oft quoted yet overlooked. These three words are powerful, and in them lies the key to understanding a profound truth about the nature of God’s grace and forgiveness. The struggles, addictions, guilt, and shame that so many of us deal with find their end in these words.
When Jesus died on the cross, He did so as a substitution—no crime shall go unpunished, and His death opened a way for us to pass the guilt of our wrongdoing onto Him, where it was punished. This substitution allows us to walk away free under the payment Jesus made, if we enter into a relationship with Him. As Jesus breathed His last breath, undergoing the death penalty we were headed towards, He shouted out those three words in a visceral cry: It is finished.
To better unpack why this is such a powerful statement, we must step back and examine the nature of time. God exists in veritable quantum state, both existing in and outside of time concurrently. He created all things, including the construct what we know as time, and thus is outside of it. This also reveals some truths about His nature (ie: Hebrews 13:8)
Even though God is outside of time, throughout the Bible there are references to God entering our plane and directly interacting with people and specific points in history. The clearest example of this is found in Jesus, who was both fully God and fully man; Jesus (God ‘the Son’) was solidly stuck in our timestream at the same time God (the Father) was still outside of time.
God, being outside of time, can see all things, past, present, and future. He is omnipotent—all knowing. A day is like a thousand years1, and a thousand years is like a day to Him2; they all lay before Him.
Imagine an old VHS cassette. If you were to pull the film out of that tape and stretch it out before you, you would have a million little pictures before you; every instant of that movie would be laid bare so you could peruse it at your leisure, viewing any scene you wanted to at any time. This is what time is like in relation to God. Tracking so far? Here’s where it gets cool.
Jesus was God (the Son) stepping into the film strip of time. He lived and died and rose again, following the same progression of time as every human. When His sacrificial death had come unto Him, He said those three words we started off with: It is finished. The sacrificial work was done. The death penalty had just been fulfilled for all—past, present, and future, if they would accept it.
Growing up, I would sin and then I would ask for forgiveness from God. I believed that it was only after I had asked for forgiveness that I was cleaned. I was traveling through time, and as I made mistakes they were forgiven. I actually thought that if I died without having asked forgiveness for a sin, I would go to hell (this is quite similar to the train of thought that leads to priest’s giving a last absolution to a dead man).
How does “It is finished” play into all of this? Jesus did not say “It has begun” because God’s forgiveness is a final forgiveness—once and for all, the price was paid. When Jesus died, all sins were forgiven, contingent upon us accepting that forgiveness. It stands to reason that since God is outside of time, the sin that I commit tomorrow has already been forgiven, since time is not continually being created as we move forward (it is simply our perception of time moving that is happening). Jesus’ death covers the sin I committed yesterday, but that was over 2000 years in the future when Jesus died; God’s forgiveness isn’t bound by time. I perceive my sin before I perceive my forgiveness, but the forgiveness happened 2000+ years ago.
Imagine that I am standing in front of a painting. There are lots of individual points on this painting, and I can see them all at once. If I was on one of those points, it would be impossible for me to see the whole picture all at the same time, but the points are still there. As I observe the painting, I throw my drink onto it, covering all of it in water. From the perspective of the point, it might look like only the visible points had been covered, but the water is all over the painting. This is what Jesus’ death on the cross did. In that moment, it was as if a fountain of forgiveness exploded forth from that point and it covered the entire timeline (past, present, and future) all at once. It was one act and it is finished.
Because it is finished, all of my sins have been forgiven, and nothing can separate me from the love of God; every second of my existence has been saturated in His love and forgiveness. Because it is all forgiven, it does not matter if I enter into my relationship with God as a child or on my deathbed, because the forgiveness covers all moments equally, no matter when I step into it. (Matthew 20:1-16) Because it is all forgiven, there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus!
While God does not rejoice when someone who knows Him sins, it doesn’t even register on His radar because it is currently/has been/is being covered already! He forgave it “before it ever happened” (from our perspective). In Romans, Paul talks a lot about this. In chapters 5 and 6, he says:
“…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound? By no means!”
Do you see how the nature of time and God’s forgiveness dictates the flow of this passage? Where there was sin, there was even more grace, because it has all been forgiven—past, present, and future. Should we thus choose to sin repeatedly, so that there can be more forgiveness? No—sin is sin, regardless of whether it is forgiven or not. But it has already been forgiven, which leads to Paul’s later conclusion:
“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died….” –Romans 8
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” –Romans 11
Why is there no condemnation? Because all has already been forgiven. It is impossible to hold someone’s sin against them if they have entered into a relationship with God, because that sin has been removed from them. John the Baptist told the onlookers to behold Jesus, who had come to take away the sins of the world. In one moment He took all sins from the world! As such, for one who is in a relationship with God, condemnation, self-hatred, or doubt of salvation have no place. Nothing can make us lose our salvation, because all has already been forgiven! Every sin we commit in the past, present, or future has been taken from us and washed clean, and when we enter into a relationship with God, we are stepping into that clean sinlessness.
Do we have a license to sin as we please because it has all been forgiven already? Not in the least—one of the signs that we are in a relationship with God is that we begin to align ourselves with Him and pursue the “desires of the Spirit” over the “desires of the flesh”. To purposely disobey God in an attempt to cash in on His forgiveness is misguided and a slap in God’s face. Will we sin? Yes—Paul talked about the struggle of living a simultaneously completely redeemed and fallen life (Romans 1-8), and it has been forgiven.
What ramifications does this truth hold for how we view ourselves? It refutes guilt and shame’s place in our lives and any doctrine that would promote those stances in us. How might this change how we view and treat others? It has been forgiven, so who are we to hold a grudge or discriminate against something that God has forgiven and redeemed?
What a wonderful sentence: it is finished!
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