“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
(Matthew 3:2 ESV)
Yesterday we met John the Baptist and saw that he called people away from the temporary, meaningless things that the world has to offer. Today we read the message he spoke to those who were willing to be inconvenienced to hear him speak.
John message was not a popular one back then. His call was to repent. The Greek word translated “repent” is μετανοεο (pronounced: met-an-o-eh’-o). It means “to turn; to change one’s mind”. From a practical point of view repentance is turning our life from the direction it is going to a new direction. It is implied that the new direction is better than the previous one.
The reason people needed to repent was the kingdom of heaven [was] at hand. In other words, the Messiah (who turned out to be Jesus) was coming on to the world scene shortly. This Messiah would provide the avenue by which people could attain heaven. But one of the prerequisites was to turn from their current, incorrect, worldview to the right one (i.e. “repent”).
John was essentially telling people their understanding of this life and the next was incorrect. This would have offended both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews believed that they were assured of heaven simply because they were descendants of Abraham. The Gentiles believed they could earn a place in heaven.
To this day people still get offended by this. Jews still think they’ve inherited eternal life. Gentiles think they can be “good enough” to get to heaven. Neither of these are true. Salvation is neither inherited nor is it based on merit. The kingdom of heaven is only accessible through the forgiveness of sins that Jesus offers [John 14:6].
But before anyone’s sins can be forgiven that person must believe that they are a sinner and understand that their sins keep them out of heaven [Romans 3:23]. Just as someone who doesn’t believe he is sick will not go to a doctor, those who don’t think they need forgiveness won’t seek it [Mark 2:17]. In other words, we must repent: replace our current understanding with the truth.
This is why atheism and world religions like Catholicism, Islam, and Mormonism are so dangerous. They spread false information that only does one thing – keep people out of heaven [Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23].
This is not an easy message. It offends our pride. But that doesn’t make it any less true. If anyone wants to spend eternity in heaven – and everyone should – then they need to repent. They need to turn from what they currently believe and instead believe the truth proclaimed by Jesus and John the Baptist before Him.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.