Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand
aymon de albatrus
"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat 4:17)
"14 ¶ Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mar 1:14-15)
One thing that one does not hear preached in these evil days from any pulpit is: "REPENT".
Why is it so?
The diagnosis is simple, really, for repentance is the recognition of wrong doing and turning around from that. But, what is wrongdoing? Well it is sin, and sin is transgressing the Laws that God has imposed on humankind (1Jo 3:4). But humankind does not want anything imposed for it is "politically" incorrect and upsetting in his eyes, being rebellious to God, and so the concept of sin is done away with, for it offends and anyone that preaches about sin in these days will be accused of performing "hate speech", and even put to prison. This is why hardly any preaching (if any) about Repentance is heard from any pulpit.
It is a conceivable thing to think that since the Bible condemns people’s fancy (sin), so then the Bible will be banned and thus NO condemnation, QED.
What is Repentance
The words Repent and Repentance appear in the NT well over 50 times with this meaning:
to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent,
to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins,
a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done
in other words, Biblical Repentance means: the “turning away from sin” by first changing one's mind (metanoia), accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, then choosing to change one's way of life.
Clearly "to repent" has inherent in it the concept that what one has done in his life is wrong in terms of God and that this has to be admitted, be sorry, be penitent, and be determined to change one’s way to the correct one. This may seem a small thing to do, but to humans it is a huge step to admit that all they have done and believed in up to then, is wrong in God's economy and has to be rejected. This is too much for the human ethos to admit and accept that their very being has been all wide off the mark, unless the Lord grants a new heart and a new spirit (Eze 36:26-27).
Much it is said about the repentance of the Prodigal son, but on a deeper analysis of the situation it seem that his repentance was arisen not so much out of a repented sorrowful heart, but by a natural need, i.e. food: “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Luk 15:17) But the real hero of the story is the prodigal son's father (a picture of God) for he had already forgiven his wayward son: “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Luk 15:20) You see the prodigal did not receive forgiveness till he made a sign of repentance (sort of) but his father had already forgiven him in his heart (internally) and promptly granted forgiveness (externally) upon even the least of of repentance's sign. Do note that the father did not seek him out till then.
Much is also made of the woman caught in adultery that Jesus forgave her, regardless of any sign of contrition. Well Jesus did not do any such thing. The adulterous woman was not repentant and asked for no forgiveness, and Jesus gave none. Jesus recognised and confirmed her sin "sin no more" and gave no forgiveness as He had done other times "your sins are forgiven". Without repentance there is no external forgiveness.
Most people, when questioned apropos, will answer like the adulterous woman: ""This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, "I have done no wrong."" (Pro 30:20) But what is the testimony of Scripture: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Rom 3:23). NO ONE is without sin, we all have gone astray and who says "I have done no wrong" makes God a liar when Scripture specifically says that ONLY God is true and everyone a liar. (Rom 3:12; 1Jo 1:10; Rom 3:4)
There is another form of "Repent" as found in (2Co 7:8) where Paul "repented" of having been a little harsh in his letters. This type of repentance has this meaning: ‘regret even amounting to remorse for having done an action not involving sin’ whilst the repentance of one’s sins means: ‘a fuller and nobler term, expressive of moral action and issues. It always includes an admission of guilt, and also includes a solemn promise or resolve not to repeat the offence’.
Here we are considering repentance for having sinned.
Repentance in the Bible has three basic elements:
In other words, repentance involves a totally changed life as stated: "Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2Co 5:17) According to the Bible, all things are new once a man is in Christ, and old things are passed away. Repentance is certainly a requirement to achieve that.
Jesus began his ministry preaching, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat 4:17) and ended His earthly ministry the same way: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." (Rev 3:19) In Matthew 9:13 he said, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." He denounced cities in Matthew 11:20 "because they repented not." Repentance is required for salvation, as amply witnessed by Scripture: "And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;" (Luk 3:3)
Repentance is a divine gift
The acts of repentance do not earn God's forgiveness from one's sin; rather, forgiveness is given as a gift from God to those whom He saves (Eze 36:26,27): "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Act 11:18)
Incidentally this verse demonstrated to the Apostles that God had called also the Gentiles to the marvellous salvation in Christ Jesus. Remembering that in the Jewish economy such concept was unthinkable and the fact that God had granted repentance to salvation even to the Gentiles was the pure evidence that compelled the Apostle to overcome their abhorrence for the Gentiles and to bring the Gospel even to them: " …If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." (2Ti 2:25); also (Acts 5:30,31).
People are called upon to repent in order that they may recognise their own inability to do so, and consequently be thrown upon God and petition Him to perform this work of grace in their hearts. Many church fathers have made reference to it as the "gift of repentance" or as the "gift of tears". It is an acknowledgment that we have failed God, that we are responsible to Him and unable to save ourselves thus recognising His total Sovereignty over us: "I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing." (Joh 15:5)
God calls all to repentance through the hearing of the Gospel. God grants total repentance as each individual responds to repentance through faith in the expiating sacrifice of Jesus for all their sins. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom 10:17). And yet, NO one can generate repentance by Himself for repentance by its nature requires a seeking of God to repent to, but none seeks God by his own initiative: "There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God." (Rom 3:11) This is an impasse, how then can we overcome it? By the Grace of God, that makes us be ‘born again’ by granting us a new heart and a new spirit (Eze 36:26-27; Joh 3:3).
Repentance is donated (Act 11:18) before anything else by definition. One cannot show true change in his life before he himself has changed [repented] to bring about manifestations of that change/repentance. For this reason repentance must necessarily come before such ordinances as water-baptism and the Lord's Supper, which are totally meaningless unless one is in Christ after having repented of his sins and having receive forgiveness for them.
Yet it is produced through the use of means (Act 2:37-41). The very Gospel, which calls for repentance, produces it. When the people of Nineveh (Jon 3:5-10) heard the preaching of the word of God by Jonah they believed the message and turned unto God. Not just any message, but the Gospel is the instrument that God uses to bring about this desired end. Furthermore, this message must be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit (1Th 1:5-6).
The Lord uses many ways to bring His wandering children into repentance, chastisements for example: "For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and whips every son whom he receives." (Heb 12:6) (Rev 3:19)
Other times God uses a gentle and loving Christian reproof of a believer to be the means of bringing people to God: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;" (2Ti 2:24-25)
Genuine repentance must necessarily lead to a full confession of our sins to God: "For I will declare my iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin." (Psa 38:18); (Luke 18:13; 15:21).
A truly repentant soul is determined to forsake sin forever: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isa 55:7) (Pro 28:13)
The proof of true repentance must be clearly seen and anyone that pretends repentance but does not bring forth suitable good fruits is a fake and has no salvation in him: "8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say to you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: every tree therefore which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Luk 3:8-9)
For a truly contrite repentant soul it is not enough to turn away from sin; but must also turn unto God: "For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;" (1Th 1:9)
Preachers MUST frequently preach about sin and explain that sin is the transgression of God’s Laws and that sin will lead to death in Hell. If preachers do not do that then we will get into a situation like the present whereby sin has lost its meaning in this age of relativism and absence of absolutes we may have to seek the opinion of a committee do define sin having lost the knowledge how to determine the difference between evil and good.
The only way to define SIN is in terms of God’s commands and those are found only in the Bible. Whatever is contrary to God’s Laws is SIN, without any if’s and but’s. ....sin is the transgression of the law." (1Jo 3:4) and that is that. Preachers are commanded to preach that forcefully and without fear of man, otherwise they will sound an uncertain trumpet alarm and the Lord will require an account from the unfaithful watchman. Preachers MUST preach the Word of God as it is, without trying to please men to be approved of: "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Gal 1:10)
The present state of things in the world, and alas, even in the church, is that sin is not recognised for what it is and thus the logical conclusion leads to people saying: "what I have to repent of? There is no sin? I am a good person and have always done good." Indeed if Sin is no more then why should one repent? Logical conclusion.
If sin does not exist, then what has Christ come for, and die on the cross? In that case the Bible is useless and Christianity an illusion. This is exactly what Satan wants, and many men are helping him.
At best sin is diagnosed as some sort of disorder to be cured with medicine. BUT it is not so, sin is a matter of eternal life in Heaven or in Hell, and preachers must not be negligent in proclaiming the full counsel of God.
Preachers, we have a heavy responsibility to be true to our holy calling and to be faithful to the Word of the Lord:
"2 Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them, When I bring the sword on a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3 If when he sees the sword come on the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4 Then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet, and takes not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be on him. But he that takes warning shall deliver his soul. 6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand." (Eze 33:2-6)
The steps of Repentance are as follows,
Full acknowledgment that God exists and that He is,
Full acknowledgment that God is the creator of ALL things and has TOTAL Sovereignty over His creation which includes the whole human race,
God has full rights to demand an account on how we lived our lives according to His imposed laws on us,
By these laws we ALL are condemned as sinners for we all have sinned and deserve punishment in the burning fires of Hell,
But God in His most benevolent Grace grants Repentance to His people, through Christ, our marvellous Lord and Saviour
These will receive from Him a new heart and a new spirit, being born again,
The elect to salvation will then be able to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, i. e.:
- True sorrow towards God,
- True separation from sin in Christ, and
- True submission to God's will.