Repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven

by Joseph Franks

John the Baptist is the God-appointed, Spirit-filled herald. He is passionate about the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven. He is passionate about the exaltation of Jesus. He is passionate about exclaiming salvation by grace through faith. In addition, he greatly desires to experience ongoing repentance flowing forth from the humble worshippers coming to his revival services.

This is the Baptist’s explicit message:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”     (Matthew 3:1-3)

John welcomed such worshippers:

Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.     (Matthew 3:5-6)

And when he saw worshippers, more interested in covenantal election  and parental heritage than in practical repentance, these he shooed away:

… When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”     (Matthew 3:7-10)

Very soon, Jesus public ministry is set to begin. Following his upcoming month of temptation, the Son of God will be preaching, baptizing, and healing on the road as did John. And this become evident, John and Jesus have the same interests and message. Both ministers are interested in the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven. Both ministers are interested in the exaltation of Jesus. They are both passionate about exclaiming the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith. In addition, they both desire to see experience ongoing repentance flowing forth from humble worshippers in their congregations. Hear Jesus’ message:

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”     (Matthew 4:17)

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 4:17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Therefore friends, let us have a moment of self-reflection. Would John be pleased to have us worship alongside him? Would we be welcome, or would we be shooed away like the self-righteous non-repentant Pharisees?

More importantly, much more importantly, would Jesus approve of our daily worship? Repentance is not a “one and done” religious activity. It ought to be done regularly, daily, even hourly. We must keep our noses in the Book and constantly be informed of God’s law, ethic, preference, desire, and will. Then we must quickly look again to the cross; there we will find grace to cover our transgressions and more grace to assist us in our walk. Yes, let us always be satisfied with our position in Christ. Let us always be satisfied with the unconditional love bestowed upon us. In the same vein, let us always be satisfied with his performance in your stead; his righteousness on our behalf is all we need. But then, let us continue our love-relationship with him by being interested in thinking, speaking, and acting more like our Friend and Savior. Repentance is what he preaches. Repentance is what he desires. Repentance is what we desire. Repentance is a characteristic of those enjoying the Kingdom of Heaven; at least this is so until the King comes again, and we lose our reason to repent.

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