“Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17)
It is often difficult for translators of the Bible to fully express the meaning of a sentence without becoming too ‘wordy.’ English has become a very imprecise language and even more so with each passing year.
The preaching of Jesus matches the preaching of John the Baptist exactly in its core (cf Matthew 3:2) and there is no Biblical or theological reason why our message to the world should be any different. It is as true today as it was then – even taking eschatology into account.
Entrance into the kingdom of heaven (God) has always been by the same means. On man’s part, it is repentance; and on God’s part, it is the sinless sacrifice for sin by Jesus Christ.
No person will see the kingdom of heaven who has not first repented. Repentance is a total change of direction with regard to God. Once we did not believe Him, now we believe Him; once we did not believe Jesus is God, now we do believe He is God. That is repentance! A change of direction in any aspect of life will produce a different orientation that will, in turn, produce different direction, motivation and goals. These will produce visible changes in words and actions. The evidence of reversing direction is a changed life. Without this evidence there cannot have been repentance.
The grammar used in this word means that repentance is not a once-only action. Obviously it has a starting point but John and Jesus use grammar that indicates that it will be a characteristic of the normal Christian life. This is the living reality of Romans 12:2 where Paul wrote, “… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
As we read the Bible we will become aware of thoughts, words and actions that are contrary to the Divine Nature. When we do, we repent. That is, we change our action or thinking so that it is in accord with the Word of God which is an expression of the Divine Nature. This is what Paul meant when he wrote “renewing of your mind.”
Genuine repentance will produce a changed life and part of that changed life is continuing to repent as we become aware of anything in our lives that is contrary to God’s nature. Just as our first repentance is in response to the Spirit of God through the Word of God, so will all subsequent repentance and we will be “kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Peter 1:5).