This study is about the victory of the finished work in Jesus Christ and the consummated salvation which His Body has received by grace through faith. Thank you for taking the time to read this short, let us begin.
First, let’s establish that the “law and prophets” (the entire old covenant), was not fulfilled and abolished at the cross.
By the way, I do believe the old covenant is fulfilled and abolished today, it just wasn’t at the cross. In my experience, many people believe that when Jesus said, “it is finished” in John 19:30, He meant that the entire old covenant (the law of Moses, and all prophecy) was fulfilled. However, we will demonstrate this position to be simply untenable.
Let’s look at some “events” that were prophesies in the old covenant, that were most assuredly not fulfilled at the cross.
- The resurrection of Jesus was an old covenant prophecy that was not fulfilled at the cross.
- The ascension of Jesus an old covenant prophecy that was not fulfilled at the cross.
- Pentecost (the feast of weeks/Shavuot) was an old covenant prophecy that was not fulfilled at the cross.
- The pouring out (baptism) of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was an old covenant prophecy that was not fulfilled at the cross.
- The calling of the Gentiles was an old covenant prophecy that was not fulfilled at the cross.
We could obviously go on and on, but there is no need. It’s quite apparent that the entire old covenant (the law and all prophecy) was not fulfilled at the cross. And besides this, the book of Hebrews specifically teaches that the old covenant had not yet ”vanished away” at the time when the book of Hebrews was written. Look….
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: “The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… In speaking of a new covenant, he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:7-8,13 RSV)
Did you catch it? The old covenant was “growing old” and “ready” to “vanish away”….it was not fulfilled and abolished yet. (By the way, 2 Corinthians 3, Galatians 4, and Hebrews chapters 9-12 teach the same thing, study them for yourself). Let’s go on…
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
What happens to the “shadow” or the “copy” when the “real thing” has arrived? The shadow becomes obsolete, the reality replaces it. Notice, in Colossians 2 that the old covenant “types” were still at that time serving as shadows, “these are (present sense) a shadow” of the true realities (their spiritual fulfillment) that had not yet come, “what is (present tense) to come”.
Jesus lets us know exactly why these elements of the old covenant “world” remained as types and a shadows of their new covenant realities decades after the cross.
“For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished“. (Mathew 5:18)
In other words, until all old covenant promises / prophecies were fulfilled, none of it could “vanish away”. The old covenant could not “end” until everything prophesied within it had been fully accomplished (fulfilled).
At this point, we need to ask the question… What did Jesus mean when he said, “it is finished“? He simply meant the feast of the Passover and all prophecies concerning his incarnation-coming and suffering were finished, not the entire old covenant or all prophecy, that would come 40 years later. (Luke 21:20-22).
With this we have firmly established that the entire old covenant was neither fulfilled nor abolished at the cross.
Next, we will establish that not even salvation been “finished” at the cross. By the way, I do believe that salvation is a consummated reality today, but, it was not so during the writing of the new testament. At that time, salvation was still a “process”. Salvation had been initiated through the cross for sure, but the cross did not “finished” it. Those in Christ were saved, but there was a consummation to that salvation that was yet future. Let’s look.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
We see that the Ephesians “had been saved” (past tense). In other words, they were previously saved.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Notice that the Corinthians “were being saved“. In other words, salvation had been initiated (Ephesians 2:8), but was also a process (1 Corinthians 1:18). It was therefore at that time not yet complete.
So, if salvation had begun through the cross but was still a process, this explains why the new testament writers were still anticipating a consummation of their salvation decades after the cross. Let’s look.
But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 RSV)
Are they not all spirits of service for ministration being sent forth because of those about to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14 YLT)
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11 ESV)
So also, Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28 NLT)
These texts (and many more) teach that salvation was still a “hope”….it was not a “finished work” even several decades after the cross. But why?
Simply put, salvation is a new covenant blessing which could only be fully obtained in the new covenant when it was full established. But remember, the new covenant was still in the “process” of being “established” (Hebrews 8:13, 2 Corinthians 3:11,18). Therefore, salvation was also in still the “process of being established” (consummated).
So here is what we have determined so far:
- The old covenant was not abolished or fulfilled at the cross.
- The new covenant was not fully established at the cross.
- Salvation was a new covenant promise/blessing.
- Therefore, salvation was not consummated or fully received at the cross. The cross initiated both the new covenant and salvation, but did not “finish” the “redemptive work”.
So, if neither the new covenant or salvation was a consummated reality at the cross, but both are now, when was the new covenant and salvation consummated? In other words, when was the “work finished”?
Consider this fact based on the testimony of the old testament scriptures:
Israel’s promised new covenant and salvation was prophesied to come at the coming (second coming) of the Lord.
Therefore, if the new covenant and salvation are a present consummated reality today, then the “second coming” of the Lord has occurred. Let’s prove it.
It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation”… 26:21 For behold, the LORD is coming forth out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed upon her, and will no more cover her slain. (Isaiah 25:9, 26:21)
Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch… Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” (Isaiah 62:1,11)
Clearly, we can see in the above texts that Israel’s messianic salvation would come at the “coming of the Lord” (notice these verses are not referring to Jesus’ first coming (incarnation to ascension), they are clearly what we call his “second coming”). Now watch this, the time of Israel’s salvation is connected to the time of her promised new covenant.
At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people... For thus says the LORD: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘The LORD has saved his people, the remnant of Israel… For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him…. Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…. and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:1-33)
He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as a mantle. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render requital… And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD…” (Isaiah 59:17-18, 20-21)
As we can see, “salvation” was to come for Israel at the time of the new covenant and the coming of the Lord. In other words, salvation (redemption) would come as a result of the new covenant being established. And, the old testament scriptures place the salvation of Israel and her receiving of the new covenant at the time of the “second coming”.
Amazingly, this is exactly what is taught in the new testament writings of the Apostles – they were eagerly anticipating the completion of their salvation and new covenant at the coming of the Lord. Let’s look….
- Salvation was initiated at the cross (Ephesians 2:8)
- Salvation was a “process” being worked out in the first century (1 Corinthians 1:18)
- Salvation was an imminent first century expectation at the “second coming” (Mathew 24:30,34 Luke 21:28,32 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Rom.13:11 2 Thessalonians 1-4-10 Revelation 22:7,12,20)
- The New Covenant was initiated at the last Passover meal (Mathew 26:68)
- The New Covenant was a “process” (being transitioned) in the first century (2 Corinthians 3)
- The New Covenant was an imminent first century expectation at the second coming (Hebrews 8-12 Galatians 3-4, Romans 11:25-27)
This is what Paul was teaching in his letter to the Romans. The Savior of Israel would soon return and establish the New Covenant with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” and consummate their salvation. (Jeremiah 31:31)
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-26)
This “taking away of Israel’s sins” is what the writer of Hebrews called the “coming again“, when Jesus would “bring salvation” to that generation who was “eagerly waiting” for it.
For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf… so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:24, 28 NLT)
So, if salvation in the new covenant was a first century process, and that first century generation expected the completion of that process within their lifetime – and we have that salvation today – then they must have received it.
But when exactly was it “finished”. Let’s read it…
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near…. because these are the days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled…. then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, but when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near…. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. (Luke 20:20, 22, 27-28, 32 NASB)
Salvation / redemption was “finished”, and the new covenant was fully established when the Lord returned in glory to establish his new covenant kingdom through the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, signifying the end of the old covenant “shadow world”. According to Jesus, this was when salvation “finished”.
“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near…. because these are the days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled”.
Although this may challenge the modern and historical concepts of the “timing of the finished work”, it is a challenge that the church must face and must deal with if we are to rightly divide the words of truth. The cross was the greatest display of love and mercy that man will ever know, yet it was not the “crowning” of man’s redemption. The cross was the pathway to the “parousia” (the second coming), it was the causeway into the kingdom.
Salvation and the new covenant were initiated through the cross, were being “worked out” and received through the Spirit (30-70AD), and were finished and consummated at the coming of the Lord (the return of His Presence) in AD70.
Dan Dery – Titus 1:9