By John C. Carpenter
After His temptation by the devil, Jesus Christ came into Galilee, preaching The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). In this context, what did Jesus mean by "repent," who does repentance apply to, what are individuals to repent of, and what does repentance have to do with believing the gospel? In the New Testament, there are four kinds of "repentance." The first type is found in the Greek word "metamellomai," which means to "care afterwards, regret one's actions, feel sorrow." Matthew tells us, Then Judas, which had betrayed him [Christ], when he saw that he was condemned, repented [metamellomai; i.e., regretted, sorry for his actions] himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders (Mat 27:3). Second, the Greek word "metanoia" means "anxiety arising from guilt, and distress over the anticipated results of one's actions, with both leading to reversal of one's thinking." Jesus told the Pharisees, 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 [metanoia; i.e., anxiety and distress leading to reversal of one's thinking] (Mat 9:13). Third, the Greek word "ametameletos" means "cannot be brought or called back, irrevocable." Paul instructed, For the gifts and calling of God are withoutrepentance [irrevocable] (Rom 11:29). The fourth, and last, type of repentance can be found in the Greek word "metanoeo," which means to “think differently, to reconsider”. This is the type of repentance Christ was referring to when He said ...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent [metanoeo; i.e., think differently, reconsider] ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).
Immediately before He instructed those around Him to repent and believe the gospel, Jesus Christ said, The time [occasion, proper time] is fulfilled [accomplished, completed] (Mark 1:15). What did He mean? The apostle Matthew probably gave us the answer when he said, That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up (Mat 4:14-16). Matthew was simply repeating the scripture words spoken by the prophet Isaiah (Isa 9:2), and thereby exclaiming that this prophecy of Isaiah had now come to pass with the appearance of Christ as the Messiah and light of the world. The apostle Paul said, For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). When Christ said "The time is fulfilled," He probably meant the time had come for His ministry and light to shine upon those who were in darkness, or shadow of [destined for] death. Christ clearly tied the advent and revelation of His presence, ministry and light with the kingdom being at hand.
Immediately after saying "the time is fulfilled," Christ then said the kingdom of God is at hand. What was this "kingdom" that He was referring to? The word "kingdom" in this verse is the Greek word "basileia," which means "royalty, reign, realm, kingdom." The reference to royalty and reign here of course refers to the presence and person of Jesus Christ, who is our spiritual king. Timothy not only clearly identified Christ as ...the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (1 Tim 6:15), but John also described Christ as king of Kings (Rev. 17:14). Matthew spoke of the ancient prophetic reference to Christ when he said, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel (Mat 2:6). The angel told Mary, the mother of Christ, And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:31-33). The Holy Scriptures make it very clear that a reference to "kingdom" is a reference to Jesus Christ, the king of kings who shall rule and reign. When Jesus Christ said the kingdom was at hand, He was simply referring to that fact that He was at hand, and now present on earth to rule and reign. The Old Testament prophets Isaiah (Isa 7:14) and Micah (Mic 5:2) both prophesied of the kingdom that was to come. In the New Testament, the apostle Matthew spoke in similar terms of the kingdom to come. Through a dream, an angel spoke to Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary, the virgin mother of Christ, and said, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Mat 1:20-23). Emmanuel is another name for Jesus Christ. In this fulfilled prophecy, the apostle Matthew was saying that when Christ was born, God was then with us [in the physical form of Jesus Christ], since Christ is God. The "kingdom of God being at hand" and "Emmanuel" are synonymous, both meaning God is now with us in fleshly form.
After preaching the kingdom of God was at hand, Jesus Christ next said, ...repent [metanoeo; i.e., think differently, reconsider] ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). As we discussed, repent can mean regret, feeling anxiety and guilt from one's actions leading to reversal of thinking and behavior, or irrevocable, but these meanings are not what Christ was referring to here. In this context, the Lord was speaking to those that did not believe the gospel, to unbelievers, those that did not believe that He was the Christ, Messiah, and Son of God. When Christ instructed those around Him to repent, or think differently, He was wanting them to reconsider their unbelief, to think differently about Him, and to believe He was the Son of God. Many believe that Biblical "repentance" applies only to ceasing from sin. Paul told those in Rome, Let not sin [hamartia; i.e., acts of sin] therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof (Rom 6:12). There is a repentance that involves sin, and God clearly does want believers to repent of acts of sin, but this type of repentance is not what Christ was referring to here. In fact, most cases of repentance mentioned in the New Testament are used in reference to rejection of Jesus Christ, and not sin. Repenting from rejecting Christ as the Son of God, who has already come to earth, is the most important type of repentance, but this type of repentance is rarely mentioned as one of the types of repentance. God the Father expects repentance from Jews and Gentiles alike. Although we know from the apostle Paul that, spiritually speaking, in the New Testament There is neither Jew nor Greek [Gentile]... (Gal 3:28), in order to properly understand "repentance," we must recognize that Christ, and His disciples and apostles, made a distinction two thousand years ago. The rejection of Christ was foreknown by God the Father. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, even prophesied that Christ would be rejected. He said, For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isa 53:2-3). The New Testament apostle Matthew specifically mentioned the Jewish rejection of Christ saying, Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone [Christ] which the builders [the Jews] rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? (Mat 21:42). Speaking to the Jewish scribes and Pharisees, Christ said, Full well ye reject the commandment [to love God and man] of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the [Gospel] word of God of none effect [does not bring salvation] through [because of] your [Jewish] tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye (Mark 7:9-13). Jesus also told His disciples the ...Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the [Jewish] elders, and of the chief[Jewish] priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31). Jesus clearly explained, He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:48). The apostle Paul also spoke of Christ's rejection when he said, Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel [the Jews] is, that they might be saved [from God's wrath and destruction]. For I bear them record that they [the Jews] have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness [in Christ], and going about to establish their own righteousness [by keeping the Jewish law], have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom 10:1-4). The Jews were trying to become righteous by keeping the law, rather than believing in Jesus Christ. Speaking to some Jewish individuals who had become believers in Christ, and who were tending to return to works oriented righteousness, the author of Hebrews exhorted, Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead [leading to death] works [toil, effort], and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. 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 [turn away from Christ, i.e., apostatize], to renew them again unto repentance [anxiety and distress leading to reversal of thinking]; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Heb 6:1-6). These Scriptures make it clear that, in the pursuit of righteousness, it is not possible for an individual who has once repented from keeping the law and rejecting Christ, and thereby, becomes a believer in Christ, and who returns to keeping the law, to be renewed a second time to repentance to faith in Jesus Christ. The point remains, though, that the repentance [anxiety and distress leading to reversal of thinking] spoken of here involves forsaking dependence upon keeping the law, and coming to faith in Christ, for righteousness. When the Jewish scribes and Pharisees asked the Lord, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? Jesus responded, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance [metanoia; i.e., anxiety and distress leading to reversal of thinking] (Luke 5:30-32). Christ explained that he ate with sinners because they needed to believe in Him, the great physician, for their salvation. Here, the Lord clearly defined "sinners coming to Christ" as repentance. It is dangerous to refuse to repent from rejecting Christ, and the apostle John told us God's view regarding those who reject His Son.. John wroteHereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every [human] spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is [was born and has already] come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (1 John 4:2-3). God explains that those who do not believe the gospel and who do not repent of their rejection of Christ, have the spirit of antichrist. Jesus Christ instructs unbelievers to "repent ye" of this rejection and spirit of antichrist.
When Christ lastly instructs us to believe the gospel (Mark 1:15), what then is the "gospel" that He wants us to believe? Angels of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Christ, and said, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings [euaggelizo; i.e., good news, or the gospel] of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11). The gospel, or good news, is that in the city of David [Bethlehem], a saviour, Christ the Lord, was born. When Jesus Christ instructs us to believe the gospel, He simply wants us to believe that in the city of David, a saviour, Christ the Lord, was born two thousand years ago.
Of all the possible definitions of repentance, Luke, the beloved physician, has possibly given us one of the most instructive, I believe. Speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, Christ said, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth [metanoeo; i.e., think differently], more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Luke 15:4-7). In this parable, Christ makes the spiritual analogy and point that God considers the individual lost [damned to destruction] sinner very important, pursues the sinner until he or she is found, and then rejoices with friends and neighbors when the sinner is found and repents. Christ then gives a second parable in which He says,Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God overone sinner that repenteth [metanoeo; i.e., think differently] (Luke 15:8-10). A second time, the Lord makes the spiritual analogy and point that God considers the lost sinner very important, pursues the sinner until he or she is found, and then rejoices with friends and neighbors when the sinner is found and repents. In these first two parables, the Lord explains how God seeks man. In the very next and third parable, the parable of the prodigal son, Christ proceeds to give us the definition of repentance, and thereby explains how man seeks God. Christ explained in this third parable, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods [inheritance] that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted [lost] his substance with riotous [without legal and moral restraints, excessive] living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 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 [be fully destroyed, die] with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 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. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found (Luke 15:11-32). In this parable, the younger son, who was originally in close relationship with his earthly father, desired, requested, and received his inheritance early. He promptly lost his inheritance through unrestrained, excessive living, began to be in need, turned to man to no avail for help, came to his senses and realized he was going to die. He then decided to go back to his earthly father and confess his sin. In this parable the Lord gave us a clear definition of repentance. Christ described the repentant individual as one who says (1) I will arise and go to my [Heavenly] father, (2) I will say to Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and (3) I am no more worthy to be called thy son. As described here, Scriptural repentance is returning to our Heavenly Father, God, from whom we have been separated, confessing our sin to Him, and recognizing and confessing to Him that we are no longer worthy to be called His spiritual son or daughter. When these three elements are present, true Biblical repentance has taken place. Repentant sinners should not hesitate nor fear returning to their Heavenly Father and confessing their sin, because the scriptures tell us how God the Father will respond to our repentance. When our Heavenly Father sees a repentant sinner who is returning to Him even approaching in the distance, God has compassion, runs to the sinner, and kisses him or her. God then puts the best robe on the repentant sinner, puts a ring on the hand, shoes on the feet, kills and eats the fatted calf, and is merry (Luke 15:20-32).
Paul gave guidance to Timothy regarding church leaders, saying, ...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 [metanoia; i.e., anxiety and distress leading to reversal of thinking] to the acknowledging [recognition] of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will (2 Tim 2:24-26). In this statement, Paul said that those that "oppose themselves [unbelievers] and are in the snare of the devil" need for God to grant them repentance [anxiety and guilt leading to reversing their thinking] so they can acknowledge the truth. Paul clearly associated repentance with recognizing the truth. What was this "truth" that Paul said needed to be acknowledged? Speaking to a Jewish crowd, Christ said,Ye sent unto John [the Baptist], and he bare witness [evidence, testimony] unto the truth (John 5:33). Later on, John the Baptist said,And I [John the Baptist] saw, and bare record [witness, evidence, testimony] that this [Jesus] is the Son of God (John 1:34). The "truth" is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Paul explained that God needed to bring unbelievers to (1) feeling anxiety caused by realizing they are guilty of sin, and (2) feeling distress over the anticipated results or consequences of their sin. When a sinner realizes they are guilty of sin and fears the consequences of that sin [metanoia], the sinner is then able and eager to change their thinking [metanoeo], and believe the truth, that Jesus is the Son of God. Holy Scriptures also teach us, 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 [Jews and Gentiles alike] should come to repentance [metanoia; i.e., anxiety and distress leading to reversal of thinking] (2 Pet 3:9), and thus believe on him [Christ] whom he [God the Father] hath sent (John 6:29). Christ personally instructed Jews and Gentiles alike to repent of their rejection of Him. The apostle Peter taught, Repent [metanoeo; i.e., think differently] and be baptized [to make fully wet, washed, immersed] every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness, pardon] of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise [of eternal life through Christ] is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:38-39). Peter clearly associated thinking differently about and accepting Christ with the forgiveness of sins, as well as God's promise of eternal life through Christ. Scriptures teach,...the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism [ceremonial washing] of repentance [anxiety and guilt leading to reversal of thinking] for the remission [pardon, forgiveness] of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight [true, immediate] (Luke 3:2-4). John also clearly preached that repentance led to the pardon and forgiveness of sins. Although believers in Christ are not to sin, in the New Testament, it is not "ceasing from sin" that brings forgiveness of sins from God the Father, but faith in Jesus Christ. As John taught, individuals are to "prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ, and make his paths [walking, presence] immediate and true," which simply means to accept and believe in Him and His calling. After God, through Peter, had healed a man lame from his birth, the apostle Peter instructed those who had denied the Holy One and the Just and had killed the prince of life to Repent [metanoeo; i.e., think differently about Christ] ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out [wiped away], when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:14-19). Even the apostle Peter associated thinking differently about Christ with the remission of sins. Peter elsewhere said, ...We ought to obey [hearken and submit to] 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 [bestow, minister] repentance [anxiety and distress leading to reversal of thinking] to Israel [in the New Testament, this refers to Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ], and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:29-31). Peter not only explained that unbelievers are to "hearken and submit to" Jesus Christ, but that Christ was specifically raised up to bestow repentance to those who believe in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God. Clearly, repentance involves faith in Christ, and faith in Christ is essential if one desires eternal life. The Lord clarified to us all the outcome if we did not repent, saying, I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent [metanoeo; i.e., think differently about and believe in Christ], ye shall all likewise perish [be fully destroyed, die] (Luke 13:3). If an unbeliever does not change his or her thinking, and accept Jesus as the Christ, Messiah, and Son of God, death will be the end result. Christ personally gave us a succinct definition of repentance when He told some Jews that wanted to kill Him, ye will not come [believe in and submit] to me, that ye might have life (John 5:40). As He walked on earth, Christ consistently exclaimed in various ways, "I am now here in the flesh with you to rule and reign, God the Father is also with you through Me, My ministry and light have begun to shine forth, so change your thinking, recognize me and believe that I was born in Bethlehem, and that I am the Christ, the Messiah, and the Son of God." Did the Lord also not mean the same thing when He said, ...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).When repentance is present, the apostle John taught us the reward, saying, But as many as [repented from rejecting Christ and] received him, to them gave he power [privilege, authority] to become the sons of God, even [specifically] to them that believe on his name[as the Son of God] (John 1:12).   AMEN.
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"Let your light
so shine before
men, that they
may see your
good works, and glorify your
Father which is
in heaven"
(Mat 5:16)

Subject-Verse Index