Christ's Work of Redemption is Finished, Not Continuing
James McCarthy

Just before the Lord Jesus gave up His spirit upon the cross, He cried out, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). His sacrificial work of redemption was done. The Greek verb here is in the perfect tense. "It implies a process, but views that process as having reached its consummation and existing in a finished state."1 In other words, the saving work of Christ was completed on the cross and continues in a state of completion. The verse can be translated: "It has been finished and stands complete" (John 19:30).2

Roman Catholicism misrepresents the finished work of Christ on the cross by saying that the sacrifice of the cross is continued in the Mass. The Church claims that "…God Himself wishes that there should be a continuation of the sacrifice…."3 And so, Christ "…has offered and continues to offer Himself as a victim for our sins…."4 According to Roman Catholic theology, at over 120 million Masses each year four things occur:5

An Immolation

As we have seen, the Church teaches that at each Mass, through the words and actions of the priest, Christ is immolated—made present in His victimhood upon the altar under the appearance of bread and wine. This, says the Church, is "no mere empty commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, but a true and proper act of sacrifice…an unbloody immolation…a most acceptable victim…."6

This doctrine terribly misrepresents the present resurrected and glorified state of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures teach that "Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him" (Romans 6:9). Christ manifests Himself as "the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore…." (Revelation 1:18). He then adds, "…and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18). Shall the living One who holds all power over death be continually presented in His death? And that by those for whom He died? Clearly not. Furthermore, the Bible makes no mention of an unbloody immolation. Scripture teaches that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). No blood, no propitiation.

A Re-Presentation

The Church teaches that at each Mass, Christ "…offers Himself a most acceptable victim to the Eternal Father, as He did upon the cross."7 In the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest petitions God, "Look with favor on your Church’s offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself."8 The Church explains that the priest is praying that "…the Body and Blood of Christ may be the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world."9

This re-presentation of Christ in His victimhood, allegedly occurring millions of times each year at the Mass, misrepresents the accepted work of Christ. The Bible teaches that Christ presented the sacrifice of His life to the Father only once. Upon His death, the Lord Jesus passed "through the greater and more perfect tabernacle" (Hebrews 9:11). His purpose was "to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus entered the heavenly throne room of God "not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood" (Hebrews 9:12). His purpose was "to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). He "entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12).

The Father accepted the perfect sacrifice of Christ without reservation. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain" (Revelation 5:12), shall be the praise of myriads of angels in heaven for all eternity.

On earth the Father signaled His acceptance of Christ’s work by dramatically removing one of the principal symbols of the separation that sin had caused between God and man. In the Temple, as instructed by God, a thick curtain formed a wall between the area in which the Aaronic priesthood could minister and the Holy of Holies where God dwelt. The Scriptures record that as Christ yielded up His spirit, "Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51). This removal of the barrier between God and man signaled that Christ’s work of redemption had been accepted.

The greatest manifestation of the Father’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice came three days later. The Bible says that Jesus "was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25). Christ’s offering for sin had been accepted (1 Corinthians 15:17).

The Scriptures further teach, speaking of Christ: "When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). He sat down for His work was finished. There He remains until a future day: "He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet" (Hebrews 10:12-13).

The Roman Catholic Mass distorts these truths by in effect calling Christ off His throne tens of thousands of times each day to reenter the holy place and re-present Himself in His victimhood to the Father. There Christ supposedly stands while a priest on earth petitions God: "Look with favor on these offerings and accept them…."10 This constant re-presentation is a denial of the finished and accepted work of Christ.

An Appeasement

Roman Catholicism teaches that the Sacrifice of the Mass is a "truly propitiatory sacrifice"11 of "infinite value"12:

…it is quite properly offered according to apostolic tradition not only for the sins, penalties, satisfactions and other needs of the faithful who are living, but also for those who have died in Christ but are not yet fully cleansed. (Council of Trent)13

Through each Mass, says the Roman Catholic Church, God’s anger against sin is pacified [1371, 1414]:

…this is a truly propitiatory sacrifice….For the Lord is appeased by this offering, he gives the gracious gift of repentance, he absolves even enormous offenses and sins. (Council of Trent)14

To the contrary, the Lord is offended by the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass. God has already told us that He is fully satisfied with the once for all offering of Christ on the cross: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). The "Holy Spirit also bears witness to us…saying…their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Hebrews 10:15-17). The conclusion naturally follows: "Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin" (Hebrews 10:18). For this reason, Scripture repeatedly calls the cross the "once for all" offering of Christ (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 9:26, 9:28, 10:10; Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18). To continue to try to appease God with an ongoing sacrifice is an act of unbelief.

An Application

Finally, Roman Catholicism teaches that at each Mass, the blessings of Calvary are meted out to Catholics:

The august sacrifice of the altar is, as it were, the supreme instrument whereby the merits won by the divine Redeemer upon the cross are distributed to the faithful…. (Mediator Dei)15

Since the merits of the cross are primarily available through the Mass, the Church urges priests to celebrate the Eucharist, "the sacrament of redemption,"[1846] frequently, daily if possible. Priests are to do this with the salvation of the world in view:

We recommend that they celebrate Mass daily in a worthy and devout fashion, so that they themselves and the rest of the faithful may enjoy the benefits that flow in such abundance from the Sacrifice of the Cross. In doing so, they will also be making a great contribution toward the salvation of mankind. (Mysterium Fidei) 16

And again [1405]:

In the mystery of the eucharistic sacrifice, in which priests fulfil their principal function, the work of our redemption is continually carried out. (Second Vatican Council)17

Pope Pius XII wrote that Christ:

…daily offers Himself upon our altars for our redemption, that we may be rescued from eternal damnation and admitted into the company of the elect. (Mediator Dei)18

This relationship between the work of redemption and the Mass is also expressed in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The priest prays over the gifts:

May we celebrate these sacred rites worthily, O Lord, for each offering of this memorial sacrifice carries on the work of our redemption. (Roman Missal)19

All of this stands in contradiction to the Bible. Scripture teaches that God freely and immediately bestows upon each true believer "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3). These He lavishes upon His children in Christ (Ephesians 1:7-8). Nowhere does God require a Christian to participate in an ongoing sacrifice in order to obtain his or her blessings in Christ. The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching that the Sacrifice of the Mass is "the supreme instrument whereby the merits won by the divine Redeemer upon the cross are distributed to the faithful"20 is just one more way in which the Church makes people dependent upon it for the blessings of God.

Adapted from The Gospel According to Rome by James G. McCarthy, Harvest House Publishers, © 1995.


This article is indexed to the numbered paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The paragraph numbers are in brackets.

1. H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto, Canada: Macmillan Company, 1955), p. 200.
2. Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament, An Expanded Translation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), p. 262.
3. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no. 79.
4. Pope Pius Xl, Quas Primas, December 11, 1925.
5. This figure is based upon each of the 404,031 Roman Catholic priests of the world offering the Mass 300 times each year. The annual total would be 121.2 million Masses. (Number of priests based on figures from 1994 Catholic Almanac (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1993), p. 367. Figure is as of December 31, 1991.)
6. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no. 68.
7. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no. 68.
8. Third Eucharistic Prayer.
9. Second Vatican Council, "Sacred Liturgy," "General Instruction on the Roman Missal," no. 2.
10. First Eucharistic Prayer, The Memorial Prayer.
11. Council of Trent, session 22, "Decree and Canons on the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass," chapter 2.
12. A. Tanquerey, A Manual of Dogmatic Theology (New York, NY: Desclee Company, 1959), vol. II, p. 279. Also compare Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1960), p. 414.
13. Council of Trent, session 22, "Teaching and Canons on the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass," chapter 2.
14. Council of Trent, session 22, "Teaching and Canons on the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass," chapter 2.
15. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no. 79.
16. Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, no. 33.
17. Second Vatican Council, "Life of Priests," no. 13. See also the Code of Canon Law, canon 904.
18. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no. 73.
19. Roman Missal, "Prayer Over the Offerings," ninth Sunday after Pentecost. This prayer is cited by the Second Vatican Council, "Life of Priests," no. 13, footnote 14.
20. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no. 79.

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