Work of Redemption is Finished, Not Continuing
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
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
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"
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
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:
…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.
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,"
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 :
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
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.
2. Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament, An Expanded
Translation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956),
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),
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.
Mr. Mike Gendron
Mr. Greg Durel
Carlos Tomas Knott
Copyright 2006, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute