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What Scripture Says About Salvation

A Bible Study by Fred Kenison

 

Monograph 3:  Repentance


 

 

The meaning of repent

Repentance by man

New Testament use of repent

New Testament use of repentance

 

Summary Highlights of Monograph 3

 

 

For most people, repentance means to be sorry for sin, a definition fostered by many preachers today.  Sinners are urged to repent of their sins and turn to God.  Ironically, that is exactly opposite to the biblical teaching found in Jeremiah 31:18‑19: 

I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.  Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.  

 

Ephraim said he was first turned by God, then he repented.

 

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The meaning of repent

 

Some people are frustrated because they do not feel sorrow for some of their sins, and even openly admit they enjoyed them.  When unable to feel the sorrow expected of them, they feel abandoned by God because he did not grant them the ability to repent.   In fact, many churches consider repentance to be true only when accompanied with obvious sorrow and many tears.

 

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word nacham is translated as either repent  (41 times) or comfort (69 times).  Several of these scriptures will be examined.  Of the 41 translated repent, 35 indicate that it is the Lord who repents; and only six times does it refer to men repenting.  The Lord certainly has no sin to feel sorry about.

 

Green noted that,

The most striking characteristic of the Hebrew verb is its richness in voices, or in what may fairly be regarded as the equivalent of voices.  The Hebrew possesses seven such modifications, three active, three passive, and one reflexive.  

 

Many of the scriptures to be examined use the passive voice, which means the person is being acted upon and is not acting himself.

 

Genesis 5:29 says: 

And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.  

 

The word used for Noah, noach, comes from the root word nacham, which means rest, peace, or comfort.  The definition of the name, Noah, follows in this verse as this same shall comfort us.   In other words, both the word Noah and the word comfort are from nacham.

 

Genesis 6:6‑7 says,

And it repented (nacham) the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.  And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth (nacham) me that I have made them.  

 

Both repented and repenteth are passive, indicating that the subject is being acted upon.  The grammar indicates that the Lord was being acted upon by the conduct of his creation.  It is interesting to note that the Lord was caused to repent, or to change his mind, about some of the blessings he had intended for man.  This occurs many times throughout the Old Testament.

 

Another instance is I Samuel 15:11: 

It repenteth (nacham) me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.  

 

I Samuel 15:35 says,

And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented (nacham) that he had made Saul king over Israel.  

 

Do these verses clearly indicate that the Lord had changed his mind?

 

Jeremiah 26:3 also refers to the Lord changing his mind:  

If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent (nacham) me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.

 

In Ezekiel 14:22‑23, nacham is used in the sense of comfort:

Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted (nacham) concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.  And they shall comfort (nacham) you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord God.

 

In Isaiah 1:24 the word nacham is used as ease

Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease (nacham) me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.

 

We clearly see that the word nacham is used interchangeably as repent, comfort, or ease.  When translated as comfort, it shows the result of a change of mind, that comfort comes as a result of properly changing one's mind.  A good concordance will enable the reader to check all instances of this usage.

 

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Repentance by man

 

The following six scriptures are those where nacham is used in reference to men.  Please note that none of these scriptures indicate any sense of emotional sorrow for sin. 

 

The first is Genesis 27:41: 

And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.  And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort (nacham) himself, purposing to kill thee.  

 

Esau sought to comfort himself of his own misdeed by blaming and killing Jacob for stealing his birthright.  Jacob did not steal the birthright; Esau sold it to him for a mess of pottage.  The blessing was now Jacob's, not Esau's. 

 

Many of us seek to comfort ourselves in the same way, by blaming others for what we have done.  Men will blame their wives, even as Adam blamed Eve; wives blame husbands or children; neighbor blames neighbor.

 

Incidently, Hebrews 12:17 says,

For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.  

 

In other words, even though Esau expressed great sorrow, he still could not change what had happened.

 

Exodus 13:17-18 says,

And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent (nacham) when they see war, and they return to Egypt.  But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.  

 

God did not want his people to change their minds about continuing on to the promised land.  Therefore, he took them on a circuitous route, avoiding war until they had developed the necessary skills.

           

Judges 21:6‑7 says: 

And the children of Israel repented (nacham) them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.  How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?  

 

The children of Israel had sworn not to allow their daughters to marry into the tribe of Benjamin, but they were now changing their minds.

 

Judges 21:14‑15 says: 

And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.  And the people repented (nacham) them for Benjamin, because that the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

 

Jeremiah 8:6 says: 

I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented (nacham) him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.  

 

No one changed their minds; they continued their wicked behavior.

 

Jeremiah 31:18‑19 says: 

I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the lord my God.  Surely after that I was turned, I repented (nacham); and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.  

 

After God turned him, Ephraim changed his mind about some things of his youth.  Advancing age often brings greater wisdom to people who seek God and his purpose in their lives.

 

Job 42:6 says,

Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent (nacham) in dust and ashes.  

 

When God dealt with people in Old Testament days, they normally demonstrated their change of mind by wearing sack cloth and sitting in dust and ashes.  They wanted others, as well as God, to know they agreed with the word God had sent them, and this was the evidence supporting their repentance, or change of mind.  This practice was not limited to the Israelites.  The people of Nineveh, who were not Israelites, also demonstrated their change of mind this same way (see Jonah 3:5-6).

 

Repentance, the noun form of nacham, appears only once in the Old Testament, in Hosea 13:9‑14.  

O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.  I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?  I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.  The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.  The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.  I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance (nocham) shall be hid from mine eyes.

 

The Septuagint used a derivative of the noun paraklete to translate the word repentance from Hebrew into Greek.  This is the same Greek word used in John 14:16 when Jesus said,

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter (parakletos), that he may abide with you for ever.

 

Translating nacham as repentance, comfort, and comforter vividly illustrates an important use of this word in the Old Testament.  Repentance is a change of mind which manifests itself as comfort.  This point will provide a valuable basis for our study of the words repent and repentance in the New Testament.

 

In the six scriptures just quoted men repented, or changed their minds, because of circumstances, chastisement, or knowledge.  Esau repented out of frustration and regret.  God knew the Israelites would change their minds because they were unfit to wage battle.  The Israelites changed their minds out of pity for their brethren, the Benjaminites.  These scriptures show that men change their minds, or repent of things in their daily lives, as a result of the emotions brought about by circumstances.

 

However, when it comes to changing one's mind about God, we find that Ephraim's mind was changed by chastisement, and Job's by more knowledge about God.  Knowledge, not emotion, is the proper basis for repentance, or change of mind about God. 

 

As the Bible says in John 8:32,

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  

 

In the case of salvation, this involves nothing more nor less than knowing the facts about what God has accomplished in Jesus Christ.

 

Sorrow may precede repentance, or a change of mind, but it is not a part of it.  Many counselors, teachers, and preachers see repentance only as sorrow, and not a change of mind.  They assume that when people feel sorry for their sins, they have repented.

 

True repentance involves a change of mind, which is more than feeling sorrow for sins.  Without true repentance, people will miss the comfort which should follow their repentance.  As a result of this error, many people repent for the same sin over and over, wondering why they find no deliverance from its bondage.  Proper repentance, a true change of mind, brings comfort, peace, and joy.

 

Sorrow for sin should not be confused with repentance.  One may precede the other, but repentance does not necessarily follow sorrow for sin.  Much preaching and teaching emphasizes sorrow for sin, but that concept is not taught in the Bible.

 

Many who come for counseling are left in a state of sorrow, rather than joy, because of misunderstanding what the Bible teaches.  Too often, it is a case of the blind leading the blind with both falling into the ditch.  People are comforted when they have a scriptural change of mind.  This occurs only with the knowledge of God's grace, not by stressing that repentance means to be sorry for sins.

 

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New Testament use of repent

 

In the New Testament, the verbs repent, repented, repenteth, and the noun repentance come from the Greek word metanoya and its derivatives.  Metanoya is a compound word composed of meta, which means to change, and noya, which means mind.  The simple translation of metanoya is simply change of mind.  It definitely does not mean sorrow for sins, which is the common definition.

 

There are 59 verses in the New Testament which contain the words repent, repented, or repentance.  The greatest concentration of these (27) are in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  They are used 11 times in Acts, 11 times in Revelation, four times in Hebrews, and once in Peter's letters.  Neither the gospel of John nor any of his letters use any of these words.  And, Paul, perhaps the greatest evangelical preacher of all time, used these three words only seven times.  Is it possible that there has been an over-emphasis, as well as an erroneous interpretation?

 

The word repent or repented occurs in 37 New Testament verses.  Three cases in Matthew and one in Luke are good examples illustrating the use of repent or repentance to show how people change their minds about their behavior.

 

Matthew 21:28-29 says,

But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.  He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented (changed his mind), and went.  

 

Matthew 27:3 says,

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself (changed his mind about what he had done), and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  

 

Luke 17:3-4 says,

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

 

The first use of repent as it relates to salvation occurs in Matthew 3:2, concerning the message of John the Baptist: 

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  

 

He was telling people they should change their minds because the kingdom of heaven was close. 

 

The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are the same.  Kingdom of heaven is written in the genitive, which means the kingdom with it's authority from heaven, or God.

 

Paul referred to the ministry of John, the Baptist, in Acts 19:4: 

Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.  

 

In other words, people should change their minds, and believe that Jesus was the messiah.

 

When Jesus heard that John, the Baptist, was in prison, he began to preach the same message as John: 

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). 

 

Jesus was simply telling people to change their minds, not because heaven was at hand, but because the kingdom was.

 

Matthew 11:20-21 says,

Then began he (Jesus) to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  

 

Jesus had done mighty works in these cities which only the messiah could do, yet most people refused to change their minds about him being the messiah (see also Luke 10:13).

 

Mark 1:14‑15 is more specific about the message Jesus preached. 

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,  And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.  

 

Repentance here concerns not individual sins, but the truth of the kingdom.

 

Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, and Mark 6:12 says,

they went out, and preached that men should repent.  

 

Without a doubt, the disciples preached the same message Jesus preached which was the gospel, or good news, about the kingdom of God.  This was the same message preached by John, the Baptist. 

 

Jesus told people to change their minds and believe the good news of the kingdom.  The Israelite nation had long expected God to send the messiah and set him up to rule and reign over the earth.  Jesus, in essence, told them that he was the messiah and that God was now fulfilling his promise to them.

 

These scriptures never use the word repent to indicate being sorry for sin.  Repent meant to change their minds about what Jesus was telling them.  John 1:40‑42 says,

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.  And he brought him to Jesus.  

 

Consistently changing the word christ to messiah will produce greater insight about what the scriptures are describing.  Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles taught that people should "ask Jesus to come into their heart so they could go to heaven."  Neither did any of them ever tell anyone to be sorry for their sins and believe on Jesus so they could go to heaven.

 

Jesus and the apostles preached that people were to change their minds about Jesus being the messiah.  The primary focus of the New Testament is not about going to heaven, but the rewards of entering the kingdom of God.  As Hebrews 2:3‑5 says: 

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?  For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.

 

The great salvation which is not to be neglected was first described by Jesus, the Christ.  It concerns the world to come, or the age to come.  This world or age to come is not heaven, but the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven.

 

In Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13, Jesus said that the mighty works he had done would have convinced Tyre and Sidon that the kingdom was at hand and that he was the messiah.  Jesus no doubt angered the Jews by telling them that the Gentiles would have repented, or changed their minds about him, if they had been given the same opportunity afforded the Israelites.

 

In Luke 10:16, Jesus put his finger on a serious sin which caused him much concern: 

He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.  

 

The word despises is translated in other scriptures as reject, frustrate, disannul, and bring to nothing.  Jesus knew that when people rejected him they were annulling his claim to be messiah, or christ.  His great desire was to see people repent, or change their minds about him and his works.

 

A similar charge is found in Luke 11:29‑32: 

And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.  For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.  The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.  (See also Matthew 12:39-42).

 

Again, Jesus told the Jews that the Gentiles of Nineveh changed their minds when Jonah preached to them.  Jesus was only sent to the nation of Israel.  His teaching and preaching was that he was the promised  messiah, and that by his presence among people the kingdom of God had approached them.

 

Jesus foretold of the great difficulty in getting people to repent, or change their minds about him.  In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:29-31), Jesus said,

Abraham saith unto him (the rich man), They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.  

 

Just as people would not listen to the Old Testament prophets, neither would they listen to Jesus.   

 

Luke 13:1‑5 says,

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?  I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

 

Jesus was using these tragic events as a parable.  Indeed, these events were not a result of people's sins or a punishment from God as the people supposed.  These things were only coincidental.  But, if the people to whom he spoke did not change their minds about him and his ministry they would also perish. 

 

Jesus was not talking about physical death, but spiritual death.  When they rejected him as the christ, or messiah, it meant they could not enter the kingdom.

 

Luke 15:7, the parable of the lost sheep, says,

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.  

 

And, in a similar parable of the lost coin, Luke 15:10 says,

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

 

The thrust of the lost sheep parable is that some people need to change their minds while others do not.  The essence of the lost coin parable indicates the joy in heaven over the repentance of any sinner, or those not believing that Jesus was the messiah.  In other words, the angels rejoice when people change their mind and acknowledge the truth of what Jesus preached: that he is the messiah.

 

The basis of Jesus' ministry was that he was the christ, the messiah, the one whom God had sent to usher in the kingdom of God.  Jesus openly rebuked those who rebelliously refused to acknowledge him as the messiah.

 

Such denials perturbed the apostle John as much as they had Jesus.  He had scathing words for those who did this.

Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?   (I John 2:22)

 

The Jewish leaders at the time rejected Jesus' claim to be the messiah.  Most people today have never even heard that they, too, must decide the same issue.  Whether Jesus is the christ, or messiah, is simply ignored.  Many people even believe that christ is his second name.  The question today has been distorted to whether people have accepted Jesus as their personal savior, saving them from hell to heaven.  What a tragedy!

 

In Acts 2:22, Peter said,

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.  

 

And, Acts 2:38 says,

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

 

Peter was preaching the same message, saying that Jesus was shown to be the christ, or messiah, by the miracles, wonders, and signs.  Then he told them to repent, or change their minds, about Jesus and what he had done for the remission of sins, and to be baptized on that basis.

 

When Peter healed the lame man in Solomon's porch of the temple, many Israelite men came running to see what had happened.  Peter took advantage of this opportunity to tell them they had delivered up Jesus, the Christ, and had denied him in the presence of Pilate. 

 

Then, he said (Acts 3:19),

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;  And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.

 

God, in his grace, through the apostle Peter, was offering the very ones responsible for the death of his son the opportunity to change their minds and allow him to change their lives.  Peter also pointed out that sometime in the future God would be sending his son again.

 

Paul, speaking to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars' Hill, told them about the God whom they were ignorantly worshiping. 

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you (Acts 17:23). 

 

Note that Paul did not accuse them of not worshiping the unknown God, but rather told them they were doing so ignorantly.

 

Paul said that this God is not very far from every one of us (Acts 17:27).  Then, in Acts 17:28-31, he said,

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.  Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

 

God has commanded all men to repent, or change their minds about the kind of God he is.  He did not command them to be sorry for their sins.  He knew that if men saw him as he was, this would change them and their ideas.

 

Notice, too, that Paul did not build a wall between himself and the people he was talking with.  He continually identified himself with them and told them that God was the God of everyone.  Too many of us, when telling others about God, build a wall by saying that they must come to where we are or God will have nothing to do with them.  Paul never did this.  Even in a city given wholly to idolatry, Paul never said that God had done anything for him that he had not also done for them.  All men needed to change their minds about God and his kingdom.

 

When Paul was telling King Agrippa about his conversion and calling, he said he had,

showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.  For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me (Acts 26:20-21). 

 

Paul obediently went first to the Jews before he would go to the Gentiles.  After the Jews rejected him and his message, he found a Gentile audience.

 

What did Paul preach about?  Acts 19:8-10 says,

And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.  But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.  And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

 

Paul did not spend 20-30 minutes once a week trying to get people to accept Jesus as their personal savior so they could go to heaven.  Instead, Paul persuaded them about the facts of the kingdom of God.  He was teaching that Jesus was the christ, the messiah.  And, Paul looked forward to when Jesus would return to begin his ministry of ruling in the political kingdom which God was going to establish. 

 

When at Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders and said,

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more (Acts 20:25).

 

When Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome, he was allowed to stay in his own home guarded by a soldier.  Here he called the Jews together and explained why he was brought to Rome as a prisoner.  Luke's narrative in Acts 28:23‑31 says,

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.  And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.  And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,  Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:  For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.  And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.  And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,  Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

 

When Paul taught about Jesus, it was always in relationship to the kingdom of God.  He did not teach isolated facts which were unrelated to each other; everything he taught was always relative to the kingdom of God.  Paul called it the salvation of God. (Acts 28:28). 

 

Why has the salvation of God degenerated into accepting Jesus into your heart so you can have your sins forgiven and go to heaven?  Paul talked about accepting Jesus as the messiah, the one who will be king over the earth in God's own time.

 

Clearly, John, the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles did not preach the kind of stuff contained in so many sermons today.  Moralism and psychology have replaced facts concerning the kingdom of God.  Very little is heard today about the kingdom of God, and the little that is preached is usually distorted. 

 

God's kingdom is exactly that—a kingdom with laws, administrators, and those who will teach people what is expected of them in this kingdom.  The salvation of God is the kingdom, and it should be preached as strongly today as Paul did.

 

In II Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul said,

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.  Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.  For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.'  And, in II Corinthians 12:21, Paul said:  And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.  

 

Paul was speaking to the earlier converts who had believed what he told them about the kingdom of God and the things concerning the messiah.  Now, he was telling them to change their minds about some of their behavior.  Such things as he identified will cause trouble and bring forth only emptiness, and if continued will cause them to suffer loss relative to the kingdom. 

 

Most of these converts came from the mystery religions of the day, many of which practiced fertility rites as part of their worship.  They wanted to carry these practices over into the new religion they had embraced under Paul's teachings, but he was telling them that these things are sin and should be abandoned.

 

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New Testament use of repentance

 

Matthew 3:7-8 says,

But when he (John, the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.

 

 John went on to tell them that having Abraham as their father was not enough to win them any good marks with God.  In fact, he said that God could raise up children of Abraham from the rocks (see Luke 3:8).  They must change their minds about Jesus and the kingdom of God, otherwise they would be like trees which do not produce good fruit, and are cut down and burned.

 

In Matthew 3:11, John continued by saying,

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.  

 

John's baptism was only a testimony that people had changed their minds.

 

The religious Pharisees and Sadducees, who were the leaders of their day, felt no need to change their minds about Jesus.  Why should they?  Were they not the ones God had appointed to lead the people into godliness?  These were the same people who sent a committee to Jesus to ask, in essence, what seminary he had attended.  Would God expect them to listen to this crude man, John, who wore garments made from camel's hair, and ate locusts and wild honey?  So, John was easily dismissed.

 

Matthew 9:10‑13 recorded an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees.

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?  But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.  But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.   (See also Mark 2:17 and Luke 5:32).

 

It is difficult for those who feel they are righteous to change their minds, or repent.  Those who admit their need are the ones most likely to repent.  The repentance Jesus was seeking from the publicans and sinners is about him and his kingdom.  As stated before, Jesus preached that the kingdom of God is at hand; therefore, change your mind about it.

 

Luke 3:3 and Mark 1:4 note that John, the Baptist, preached the baptism of repentance for remission of sins.   Baptism is a public admittance that a person has embraced the teaching about something, and has become a disciple of some teaching, or person.  By submitting to John for baptism, they were acknowledging that they believed Jesus was the messiah and that the kingdom of God was at hand.  This change of mind, in essence, removed their sin of unbelief.

 

After his resurrection, Jesus visited the disciples in Jerusalem, showed them his hands and feet and told them to touch him to see that he was not a spirit but flesh and bones.  Luke 24:45-47 says,

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

 

Both repentance and remission of sin is granted to us by the grace of God on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ.  He bore the penalty for the sins of the whole world.  Jesus told his disciples to go to all nations and tell them not only the good news of the kingdom, but also tell them that repentance and remission of sin had been accomplished by his death and resurrection.

 

Acts 5:29‑31 says,

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.  Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.  

 

The apostles were preaching exactly what Jesus had instructed them.  Repentance is given to all people by grace.

 

Peter had a vision of a great vessel, similar to a sheet, holding all kinds of animals, creeping things, and fowls of the air.  A voice told him to kill and eat, but Peter refused because, as a Jew, he considered some of these things unclean. 

 

Then, Acts 10:15 says,

And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.  

 

In Acts 10:28, Peter told what he had learned from his vision: 

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.  

 

Peter had learned what many contemporary christians need to learn.  God has cleansed all men, not just believers.

 

The sweep of what Jesus did becomes even greater.  When Peter returned to Jerusalem, some Jews criticized him because he had eaten with Gentiles.  Peter told them of his vision about the unclean animals on the sheet and what the voice had told him.  He also told them that God had given holy spirit to the Gentiles and they, too, had spoken in the same tongues the Jews had heard on the day of Pentecost.

 

Those who had criticized Peter accepted his explanation, and Acts 11:18 says,

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.  

 

They recognized that repentance is granted by God.  When the Gentiles changed their minds and admitted that Jesus was the messiah they became the true children of Abraham and also partakers of the blessing God had given Abraham in the covenant he had given him (see Galatians 3:7 and 3:14).

 

In Romans 2:4, Paul asked the following question: 

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  

 

Paul recognized that repentance, like every good and perfect gift, comes from God, that repentance is a gift of God.  Paul also told Timothy that,

the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,  In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (II Timothy 2:24-25). 

 

It is God who enables us to change our minds.  It is not an act of our will, but his will.

 

Later, in Romans 11:29, Paul applied the concept of repentance to God. 

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.  

 

Repentance, again, means to change the mind.  This verse simply means that God does not change his mind insofar as gifts and callings are concerned.  When God gives a gift to someone, he does not take it back.  When he calls someone, he does not uncall them.  

 

In II Corinthians 7:9‑10, Paul put sorrow into the proper perspective in relation to repentance. 

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.  For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

 

Two different sorrows are included in these verses.  One is a godly sorrow, and the other a sorrow of the world.  One Paul highly recommends; the other leads to death.  Paul was not rejoicing because his letter had made them sorry, but because it had caused them to, sorrow unto repentance.   Their sorrow had not been permitted to end at the point of the sorrow, but had also caused a change of mind.

 

Sorrow that leads to proper repentance is the kind of sorrow pleasing to God.  This is the sorrow which leads to a change of mind, for which one need never be sorry.  It is always one which will bring salvation from the sin which led to the sorrow.

 

Remember, Paul was writing to those who had already changed their minds about Jesus and the coming kingdom of God.  They did not need to change their minds about Jesus, but they had allowed filthiness of the flesh and spirit to creep into their fellowship and their lives (see II Corinthians 7:1).  To be sorry without a change of mind is only a worldly sorrow which leads to death.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens to many today.

 

Hebrews 6:4-6 says,

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,  And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,  If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.  

 

If those who have tasted the power of the age to come, or of the kingdom of God, turn away after this knowledge, it is impossible to bring them to another change of mind.  They may sorrow, but not to repentance.

 

When the Bible places so much emphasis on the need for a change of mind about the age to come and its king, Jesus, it is a pity that so many people today are never even told they need to hear about it.  Instead, they are offered the cheap substitute of going to heaven.

 

II Peter 3:3-13 says,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,  And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.  For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:  Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:  But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us‑ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,  Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.  

 

Jesus is coming again no matter what the scoffers say.  Those who do not believe this should repent, or change their minds.

 

In Acts 20:20‑21, Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus,

I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,  Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.  

 

Faith in what was accomplished by Jesus through his life, death, and resurrection will cause people to change their minds about God.

 

A comprehensive study of the work of Jesus, the Christ, makes it very easy to reject the heathen idea of a God who must be appeased.  Instead, we see a God who loves us just as we are.  We see a God who has not only initiated a fellowship with us, but has also provided everything we need to bring this about.  If we do not fight against what God has done, if we stop rebelling against God, our salvation will become complete.  This is the ultimate repentance, and it embraces all the truths about Jesus, the Christ, the messiah, and the kingdom of God.  This is the salvation, or repentance, a gift of God.

 

The references for the 11 instances of repent and repented that occur in Revelation have not been commented on in this study.  Those passages, however, support the conclusions set forth here.  For a complete treatment of these verses, please see our book, The Apocalypse of Revelation.

 

Matthew 24:14 says,

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.  

 

Revelation 22:20 adds,

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  

 

Amen.

 

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Summary Highlights of Monograph 3

 

#  To repent means to change your mind about something; it does not

     mean to be sorry for your sins.  

 

#  Men change their minds, or repent of things in their daily lives, as a

     result of the emotions brought about by circumstances.  

 

#  Knowledge, not emotion, is the proper basis for repentance, or a

     change of mind about God.  In the case of salvation, this involves

     knowing the facts about what God has accomplished in Jesus Christ.  

 

#  Sorrow may precede repentance, or a change of mind, but it is not a

     part of it.  Many counselors, teachers, and preachers see repentance

     only as sorrow, and not a change of mind.  They assume that when

     people feel sorry for their sins, they have repented.  Many churches

     consider repentance to be true only when accompanied with obvious

     sorrow and many tears.  However, true repentance involves a change

     of mind, which is much more than feeling sorrow for sins.  

 

#  Proper repentance, a true change of mind, brings comfort, peace, and

     joy.  Without true repentance, people will miss the comfort which

     should follow their repentance.  As a result, many people repent for

     the same sin over and over, wondering why they find no deliverance

     from its bondage.  

 

#  Sorrow for sin should not be confused with repentance.  One may

     precede the other, but repentance does not necessarily follow sorrow for

     sin.  Much preaching and teaching emphasizes sorrow for sin, but that

     concept is not taught in the Bible.

 

#  People are comforted when they have a scriptural change of mind.

     This occurs only with the knowledge of God s grace, not by stressing

     that repentance means to be sorry for sins.  

 

#  Jesus told people to change their minds, not because heaven was at

     hand, but because the kingdom was.  Repentance does not concern

     individual sins, but the truth of the kingdom.

 

#  Jesus told people to change their minds and believe the good news of

     the kingdom.  The Israelite nation had long expected God to send the

     messiah and set him up to rule and reign over the earth.  Jesus, in

     essence, told them that he was the messiah and that God was now

     fulfilling his promise to them.  

 

#  The scriptures never use the word repent to indicate being sorry for sin.

     Repent meant to change their minds about what Jesus was telling

     them.  

 

#  Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles taught that people should ask

     Jesus to come into their heart and save them so they could go to

     heaven.  None of them ever told anyone to be sorry for their sins and

     believe on Jesus so they could go to heaven.  

 

#  Jesus and the apostles preached that people were to change their minds

     about Jesus being the messiah.  The primary focus of the New

     Testament is not about going to heaven, but the rewards of entering

     the kingdom of God.  

 

#  The world or age to come is not heaven, but the kingdom of God or the

     kingdom of heaven.  

 

#  Jesus knew that when people rejected him they were annulling his

     claim to be messiah, or christ.  His great desire was to see people

     repent, or change their minds about him and his works.  

 

#  Jesus openly rebuked those who rebelliously refused to acknowledge

     him as the messiah.  

 

#  The Jewish leaders rejected Jesus claim to be the messiah.  Most people

     today have never even heard that they, too, must decide the same

     issue.  Whether Jesus is the christ, or messiah, is simply ignored. 

     Many people even believe that christ is his second name.  The

     question today has been distorted to whether people have accepted

     Jesus as their personal savior, saving them from hell to heaven.  What a

     tragedy!  

 

#  God has commanded all men to repent, or change their minds about

     the kind of God he is.  He did not command them to be sorry for their

     sins.  He knew that if men saw him as he was, this would change

     them and their ideas.  

 

#  Paul continually told people that God was the God of everyone.  Too

     many of us, when telling others about God, build a wall by saying that

     others must come to where we are or God will have nothing to do with

     them.  Paul never did this.  Even in a city given wholly to idolatry,

     Paul never said that God had done anything for him that he had not

     also done for them.  All men needed to change their minds about God

     and his kingdom.  

 

#  Paul did not try to get people to accept Jesus as their personal savior so

     they could go to heaven.  Instead, Paul persuaded them about the facts

     of the kingdom of God, and he taught that Jesus was the christ, the

     messiah.  Paul looked forward to when Jesus would return to begin his

     ministry of ruling in the political kingdom which God was going to

     establish.

 

#  When Paul taught about Jesus, it was always in relationship to the

     kingdom of God.  He did not teach isolated facts which were unrelated

     to each other; everything he taught was always relative to the

     kingdom of God.  Paul called it the salvation of God.   Why has the

     salvation of God degenerated into accepting Jesus into your heart so

     you can have your sins forgiven and go to heaven?  Paul talked about

     accepting Jesus as the messiah, the one who will be king over the earth

     in God's own time.  

 

#  Clearly, John, the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles did not

     preach the kind of stuff contained in so many sermons today.

     Moralism and psychology have replaced facts concerning the

     kingdom of God.  Very little is heard today about the kingdom of

     God, and the little that is preached is usually distorted.  The salvation

     of God is the kingdom, and it should be preached as strongly today as

     Paul did.  

 

•  John's baptism was only a testimony that people had changed their

     minds.  

 

#  It is difficult for those who feel they are righteous to change their

     minds, or repent.  Those who admit their need are the ones most likely

     to repent. 

 

#  Baptism is a public admittance that a person has embraced the

     teaching about something, and has become a disciple of some

     teaching, or person.  By submitting to John for baptism, they were

     acknowledging that they believed Jesus was the messiah and that the

     kingdom of God was at hand.  This change of mind, in essence,

     removed their sin of unbelief.  

 

#  Peter learned what many contemporary christians need to learn.

     God has cleansed all men, not just believers.  

 

#  When the Gentiles changed their minds and admitted that Jesus was

     the messiah they became the true children of Abraham and also

     partakers of the blessing God had promised Abraham in the covenant.

 

#  Repentance is a gift from God.  And, it is God who enables us to

     change our minds; it is not an act of our will, but his will.  

 

#  Sorrow that leads to proper repentance is the kind of sorrow pleasing to

     God.  This is the sorrow which leads to a change of mind, for which one

     need never be sorry.  It is always one which will bring salvation from

     the sin which led to the sorrow.  

 

#  To be sorry without a change of mind is only a worldly sorrow which

     leads to death.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens to many

     today.  

 

#  If those who have tasted the power of the age to come, or of the

     kingdom of God, turn away after this knowledge, it is impossible to

     bring them to another change of mind.  They may sorrow, but not to

     repentance.  

 

#  When the Bible places so much emphasis on the need for a change of

     mind about the age to come and its king, Jesus, it is a pity that so

     many people today are never even told they need to hear about it.

     Instead, they are offered the cheap substitute of going to heaven.  

 

#  Jesus is coming again no matter what the scoffers say.  Those who

     do not believe this should repent.

 

#  Faith in what was accomplished by Jesus through his life, death, and

     resurrection will cause people to change their minds about God.  

 

#  A comprehensive study of the work of Jesus, the Christ, makes it very

     easy to reject the heathen idea of a God who must be appeased.

     Instead, we see a God who loves us just as we are.  We see a God who

     has not only initiated a fellowship with us, but has also provided

     everything we need to bring this about.  If we do not fight against what

     God has done, if we stop rebelling against God, our salvation will be

     complete.  This is the ultimate repentance, and it embraces all the

     truths about Jesus, the Christ, the messiah, and the kingdom of God.

     This is "the salvation," or repentance, a gift of God.

 

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