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What Is Repentance?

Written by: David Saldivar

Today we want to take a biblical journey to understand and fully embrace the meaning of repentance. Without counting the Psalms nor the book of Job, the concept of repentance as an expression of turning to God, away from the wrong direction was first mentioned in the Scriptures by Solomon’s prayer of dedication (2 Chronicles 6). As the head of the kingdom of Israel, Solomon was operating in a prophetic anointing that led him to foresee and feel the burden of the future departure of God’s people from His covenant and provision. Solomon’s prophetic insights eventually came to pass, and Israel’s spiritual condition resulted in the fragmentation of the kingdom and the exile of their divine purpose—the context and content of God’s response point to the significance of repentance and its prophetic meaning. 

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). 


Together with faith, repentance is one of the most important words used in the Gospel. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles used it to introduce the Gospel. 

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). 

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’”(Matthew 4:7). 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). 

The Greek word for repentance is metonoéō. Thayer Greek Lexicon defines it as “to change one’s mind… to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.”  The message of repentance is the initial call of God to correct anything that is out of place and needs to return to its original state. This is why the awareness of God’s Kingdom (rule) is necessary to understand repentance. God’s kingdom gives us a picture of God’s will on earth.

Repentance goes beyond an emotional response (remorse) of feeling bad because we have sinned against God’s commandments. Repentance is more about transformation than emotion. Remorse marinates the sinner in his sin, while repentance repels the sin away from the sinner.

The late evangelist Luis Palau used to say “It is bad when you fail morally. It’s worse when you don’t repent”. Repentance is a change of mindset and, thus, a change of direction that comes as a fruit of knowing what God is calling us to. Biblical repentance can include an emotional response, but the Bible tells us that “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, NASB). 


The message of repentance calls for men to prepare to receive God’s Kingdom. This is why repentance has a prophetic meaning and significance. The message of repentance is not only about pointing out the wrong things but about what we can miss out if we don’t ready ourselves. Hence the prophet’s message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. What was John the Baptist saying? In plain English, he called men to prepare their hearts and minds to receive Jesus.

Jesus embodied the Kingdom of God, and only those whose hearts and minds were prepared discerned His visitation. The message of repentance is for those living in exile to God’s original design and purpose. Anyone who’s gone astray into darkness and out of place must repent to receive God’s gift. We need biblical faith to see this reality; repentance is the response of our ability to hear and see the Kingdom of God; it points us in the right direction. 


God promises to hear, forgive, and heal those who repent.

Just like in the days of Solomon, the call to repentance within the preaching of the Gospel leads us to receive the Kingdom of God. God calls us to return to Him so He can transform us and restore His design and nature in our lives.

The cycle of repentance must be complete. Repentance should be seen more like an introduction to a way of life than an experience.

There was a time when the message of the Gospel wasn’t as clear to the believers as it needed to be. The Book of Acts documents a time when some people from Ephesus had believed in Jesus and were baptized in John’s baptism of repentance, but when Paul inquired if they had received the Holy Spirit, they said, “we have not even heard if there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1-5). After hearing the full scope of God’s promise, they went ahead and were baptized in the name of the Lord, and “the Holy Spirit came on them and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.”

What does all of this tell us? We need to go deeper into God’s ways. Repentance is only an introduction to a pilgrimage toward restoring and recovering God’s fullness in our lives. The curse and sin have kept us in exile from the purpose of our existence, fragmented in pieces of pain and suffering. Still, the Gospel of Jesus calls us to receive the fullness of the Spirit so we can be ruled and liberated, by God, to a victorious and overcoming life.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

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The Keystone Project is a global missions network of churches and leaders committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation.

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