Christ's Work of
Redemption is Finished, Not Continuing
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
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
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.
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.
Roman Catholicism teaches that the Sacrifice of the Mass is a "truly propitiatory sacrifice"11 of "infinite value"12:
Through each Mass, says the Roman Catholic Church, God’s anger against sin is pacified [1371, 1414]:
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.
Finally, Roman Catholicism teaches that at each Mass, the blessings of Calvary are meted out to Catholics:
Since the merits of the cross are primarily available through the Mass, the Church urges priests to celebrate the Eucharist, "the sacrament of redemption," frequently, daily if possible. Priests are to do this with the salvation of the world in view:
And again :
Pope Pius XII wrote that Christ:
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:
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.
Reaching Catholics For