When you start digging into the concept of the kingdom of heaven, the first thing you hit your head on is this:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. - Matthew 3:2 & 4:17 NASB
The first two times the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ comes up it’s linked to repentance.
The first is John the Baptist and the second is Jesus the King.
Clearly when Jesus came on the scene He brought the kingdom with Him. Wouldn’t you agree? I know—that seems obvious.
But it’s striking to me that with the approach of the kingdom there comes the need for repentance.
John stood on the banks of the Jordan in the wilderness and called the nation to repentance. Once John was in prison Jesus took up this message and began preaching that same sermon all over Galilee and the regions there-bouts.
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. - Matthew 4:23
Though we don’t hear Him say it on every page, we know He kept up this message, because in Matthew 11 we read,
Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. - Matthew 11:20
What is Repentance?
Today’s wisdom, when it hears the word repent, quickly marks it out and writes in ‘change your mind.’ Others might tell you repentance is sorrow and tears at an altar. But I’m not sure either is a big enough definition for repentance.
Paul gives us a definition for repentance that will turn sorrow into victory, because repentance preps you for the kingdom of heaven.
Check it out:
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. - 2 Corinthians 7:10
First notice that there is a difference between sorrow and repentance. Tears at the altar are supposed to produce repentance. Notice this phrase too—'sorrow that is according to the will of God.' There are some circles in the church where you’d be tagged a heretic for simply suggesting that God would will sorrow at all.
But sorrow over our own sin, which leads to repentance and then to salvation—that is the will of God without a doubt. It's the very core of God's will for all men and women.
Let’s read on,
For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:11 KJV
It’s almost a recipe for repentance:
- Vehement Desire
In my mind, when Jesus starts out the Beatitudes with,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:3 NASB
He’s talking about this repentance that runs so deep in your heart that it purges every inch of you, inside and out. This poor spirit that sorrows over the sin in his or her heart and life gains entrance to the kingdom of heaven.
We’ve got to stop thinking of repentance in negative terms. The only thing that we lose when we repent is the hold hell has on our heart.
There is life available—life in the kingdom of heaven. And you don’t have to wait till you die to get in.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For more detail on repentance you might want to read this article:
Keep the light on!