What happened in those hours of darkness as Christ hung upon the Cross will never be known by mankind. The suffering He endured as all the “waves and billows” (Psalm:42:7) of God’s wrath swept over Him is beyond our comprehension. In the face of the most despicable display of the evil in the human heart, when man was doing his worst to his Creator, Christ took all our sins upon Himself and paid the penalty in full.
Christ did not gradually expire from the physical effects of the torture and crucifixion. He had said, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John:10:17-18). When He had endured God’s full judgment for our sins, He who is God cried “with a loud voice” (Matthew:27:50; Mark:15:37; Luke:23:46), “It is finished” (John:19:30). The Greek word He shouted in triumph was tetelestai. That word was stamped on promissory notes and invoices in Christ’s day. It meant “paid in full.”
Only if we accept that payment on our behalf can we be saved. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts:4:12); “What must I do to be saved?...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts:16:30,31).
To “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” includes believing who He is and what He has done. Jesus said, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above…if ye believe not that I am…[I AM is God’s name, Yahweh –Exodus:3:14], ye shall die in your sins” (John:8:23-24). Jesus himself says we must believe that He is God, for He is; and no one less than God could save us. We must believe that the sinless One “died for our sins,” was buried, and rose bodily from the grave. Only by believing this gospel are we saved. So says God’s Word.
But wouldn’t the exceptional good works of a Mother Teresa get her to heaven? No, because we are all sinners, including Mother Teresa. Once we have broken one of God’s commandments, we are “guilty of all” (James:2:10). Furthermore, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans:3:20). Keeping the law perfectly from now on could never make up for having already broken it. Good works, no matter how good, can never pay for sin.
For God to grant salvation by any other means than faith in Christ alone would be an insult to the One who the Father insisted had to endure His wrath as the sacrifice for sin. Moreover, if He allowed entrance into heaven on any other basis, God would be breaking His own code of justice and going back on His Word. Not even God himself could gratuitously forgive earth’s most notable “saint” without the penalty being paid and accepted by the sinner in gratitude. Christ’s blood avail only for repentant sinners.