By Al Baker - Posted at Banner of Truth:
‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
— Matthew 4:17
In what Biblical scholars call Jesus’ early Galilean ministry (beginning in Matthew 4:12), after his baptism by John and his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began his ministry in Capernaum which was located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew cites the words of Isaiah who says that those who were dwelling in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9:2)/ So from that beginning Jesus preached, heralded, proclaimed the truth. And what was the first word of his message? It was the word ‘repent’. Mark records the same thing in his gospel, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,’ (Mark 1:15).
Which begs the question, what does the word ‘repent’ mean? The Greek word is metanoia which literally means a change of mind resulting in a change of behavior, speech, and values. Jesus uses the word repeatedly in the gospels. He says, ‘I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,’ (Luke 5:32). He says that is Tyre and Sidon has seen his mighty works in their day, then they would have repented and avoided judgement (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13,14). In commenting on the demise of several men who perished in a construction accident when some were wondering if they were simply getting what they deserved, he said to them, ‘No, but unless you repent then you will likewise perish’ (Luke 13:3). Paul, in his Areopagus address, declares that all men everywhere must repent (Acts 17:30). Acts 11:8 speaks of repentance unto life. In Luke 16 in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus says that even if someone from hell could warn the rich man’s relatives of hell, they would still not repent. (Luke 16:30).