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Matthew 3:2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (NKJV)

The kingdom of heaven…. the more I experience this life, the more I long to know about the “kingdom of heaven “. We will spend on average about 80 years living in this earthly kingdom. After 80 million million million years in the Kingdom of Heaven, we will not have moved one second closer to the end of eternity. Meditating on this reality produces a desire to know what God has revealed about His kingdom.

The “kingdom of heaven” leads me to a different set of thoughts than just the consideration of “heaven”. When I think of “heaven”, I think of what heaven will be like, what we will do, where we will live or how we will spend our time (which is great to think about!). When I think of the “kingdom of heaven”, it invokes thoughts of who is included, how do you become a part of it, when does (did) it begin and how is it structured. This is a vague differentiation of the two ideas, and is more my own personal distinction than a Biblical one.

The phrase “kingdom of heaven” occurs 32 times in Matthew so what better place to study about it? It occurs in declarations, statements, sermons and parables.

Matthew 3:2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (NKJV)

Whatever the “kingdom of heaven” may be, it shouldn’t be ignored because it is staring each of us in the face. It is here, it is imminent, it is “at hand”. So the convenience of procrastination or ignoring it is not an option. The time is now. There is only one proper response: repentance. Given the common response from mankind, we might have to thought that the verse should read:

  • Form a committee, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
  • Conduct an opinion poll, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
  • Ask your friends what they think, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
  • Don’t worry about it, you’ll have plenty of time later, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
  • When you get some time you might consider that the kingdom of God is at hand.
  • Involve yourself in some religious activity and moral goodness, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
  • Do everything else you want first, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

No, the proper response is clear and concise; it is definitive, narrow and intolerant. The condition of man’s heart allows for only one response when faced with the kingdom of heaven: repentance. Admit that you are wrong, and God is right. Admit that YOU are wrong, and God is right.

There is only one proper response to the “kingdom of heaven”: Repent!

Pretty cut and dried, pretty easy to understand. Not very popular however especially in today’s enlightened “spiritual” era where all roads supposedly lead to heaven. I would dare say that many of our churches would rapidly empty if so blunt, forceful and intolerant a message as “repent!” were preached unashamed and unabashed from the pulpit.

To call for repentance implies that there is something to repent of and while we are all willing to admit a “general” sinfulness in the heart of man, it becomes a much different proposition to examine and expose personal sinfulness in our own hearts. We are not called to generally repent of the common sinfulness of the human race, but to repent of personal sin, personal pride, personal rebellion and personal iniquity.

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

In chapter 3, verse 2 we find John the Baptist calling for repentance. John was announcing the imminent arrival of Jesus as well as the general call of repentance that God always presents to sinful man. Jesus begins his ministry with the same call as John.

Let’s finish today with clear definition of repentance. It is not simply feeling sorry about your sin. It’s not merely a general acknowledgement that God’s way is right and our way is wrong. That is certainly part of repentance, but true repentance is much more intrusive than that.

True repentance is evidenced by change of heart:
sinfulness forsaken for Godliness.

There are three different words for “repent” in the New Testament and a cumulative meaning is:

  • A change of mind or opinion concerning sin that produces regret and remorse (but not always a change of heart such as in the case of Judas, Matt 27.3)
  • A change of heart and purpose as the result of new knowledge or discovery of the sinful condition.
  • A tangible, demonstrable change of heart, intent and behavior; this is indicative of true repentance.
  • Followed by the Scriptural promise of eternal life for those who experience authentic repentance (Acts 11.18)

Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Change your purpose in life, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Change your motives and intentions, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Change your behavior and how you live, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

First and foremost, the kingdom of God is only for those who repent of their sin; not just a general sorrowful attitude about not being “perfect”, but a genuine realization that we are sinful, lost and condemned without Christ… that His way is right and ours is wrong followed by a corresponding change of heart and behavior.

That call for repentance is immediate. The time is now. We are not promised a future time to respond. God may grant more time, but it is never guaranteed. Repent now, repent genuinely, repent fully, repent willingly… repent and become a part of the kingdom of heaven. There’s no other way, no other road, no other method. Repent….

Holy God, Reach deep into our hearts and show us our need to repent of our sin and change our lives to glorify your Son. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Do you ever experience true repentance or was that a one time deal when you were saved? Have you ever thought about what true repentance is? Is the phrase “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” only an evangelistic call, or does it apply to Believers as well?

Application: Repentance is sorrow and change when a realization of sin occurs. The kingdom of heaven is for those who have a repentent attitude about sin. “Repent!” marked John the Baptists ministry, and was the opening call of Jesus ministry. How important do you think it is in light of that?

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today? What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  2. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?