When Jesus said, “It is finished,” what was he referring to that is finished?
“Finished” comes from the Greek term teleo which means “to bring to a close, to finish, to end,” “to perform, execute, complete, fulfill, (so that the thing done corresponds to what has been said, the order, command, etc.),” “with reference also to the form, to do just as commanded, and generally involving the notion of time, to perform the last act which completes a process, to accomplish, fulfill.” So when Christ said, “It is finished,” he was basically saying, “It is accomplished.” “It is ended.” “It is completed.” “It is brought to a close.”
Right before Jesus said, “It is finished,” he said, “I thirst.” According to John, he said, “I thirst,” because he “(knew) that all was now finished (teleo)” and wanted to fulfill the Scripture which prophesied that he would thirst and receive vinegar to drink (John 19:28; cf. Ps. 69:21). The “all (that) was now finished” (completed, ended, fulfilled) refers to the Law of Moses. Paul wrote that Christ broke down and killed “the dividing wall of hostility” which was “the law of commandments and ordinances,” and did so “through the cross” (Eph. 2:14-16), referring to the Law of Moses. The Old Testament itself foretold of being replaced by the New Testament, a prophecy fulfilled by Christ when he made the first covenant “obsolete,” “growing old,” and “ready to vanish away” when he died (Heb. 8:6-13; 9:15-17; cf. Jer. 31:31-34).
Christ had spent his life fulfilling the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament (e.g., Deut. 18:15, 18-19). He had just said, “I thirst,” to fulfill yet another Old Testament prophecy. The kingdom which was “at hand” had been prophesied in the Old Testament as well (Mark 1:14-15; cf. Dan. 2:44). To fulfill the Law and the Prophets was one of the main reasons he had come (Matt. 5:17-19). His death, resurrection, and ascension would fulfill them. For these reasons he said, “It is finished.”