In scripture, the word "repent" or "repentance" is used a lot in both the Old and New Testaments. The term is used in various ways and is even used by God Himself. And even though there is not really any controversies surrounding the idea of repentance, there is however, not a lot of importance placed on "repentance" by most of the church world like there should be when it comes to salvation. Let's take a deeper look at this.
The very first use of the term "repented" in scripture is used by God when the world became wicked.
Gen 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
The word here in Hebrew for "repented" is naw-kham, which means; to sigh, breathe strongly; by implication to be sorry, to pity, to avenge, to ease oneself. So basically, God was "sorry" that he made mankind. And later in the narrative, He flooded the earth and destroyed mankind.
Exo 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
Deut 32:36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
In these verses, it's the same Hebrew word and the implication is that God had pity and changed His mind concerning the punishment He was going to give his people, but instead He helped them.
There is also these same kind of uses when referring to man changing his mind. So, we can see so far, that the various uses of "repented" when it came to God and man relates to having pity, being sorrowful and having a change of mind (heart).
ISRAEL AND REPENTANCE
Eze_18:30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
Beginning in the Old Testament, mankind is commanded to "repent" of their evil doings. This type of repentance included being sorry for their sins and having a change of mind (heart). But also, the call to repent required a complete turnaround of one’s life style back unto God.
We also want to note; we actually find God feeling more pity and giving Israel a second chance far more than mankind repented; and that only speaks of Gods goodness and forgiving nature.
So, we can see that there are three main interpretations relating to repentance; 1) To feel sorry and bring punishment; 2) To feel pity and turn around to help; 3) To turn from sin unto God.
NEW TESTAMENT REPENTANCE
As we cross over into the New Testament, we will see that even though God who is still merciful and forgiving... now demands "repentance" in a much greater way! We cannot use ignorance as an excuse anymore.
2 Pe_3:9 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 should come to repentance.
Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
JOHN THE BAPTIST TEACHES REPENTANCE
Mat 3:1-2 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, (2) And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The word "Repent" in Greek is met-an-o-eh'-o, which means; to think differently, reconsider, morally to feel compunction (conviction - sorrow).
The thrust of John's ministry was to prepare people for the Lord's ministry. John demanded people to change their ways by repenting and being baptized. He even rebuked the Scribes and Pharisee' because they came to his baptism', but didn't really have a repentant heart.
JESUS TEACHES REPENTANCE
Mat_4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Luk_13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Jesus, even with all His mercy, demanded repentance. Because sin cannot enter into heaven, a person has to turn away from that sin or they will perish and be thrown into the Lake of Fire on judgment day.
NO REPENTANCE = UNBELIEF
Mat 11:20-21 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: (21) Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Jesus rebukes people for their lack of repentance, which is unbelief. We can see how much importance Jesus places on repentance. When a person refuses to repent they don't believe a word God has said.
SINNERS NEED REPENTANCE
Mar 2:16-17 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? (17) When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Jesus is always looking for people to repent. He will go to great lengths to find a lost soul. But again, even though Jesus loves us, He still calls people to repentance.
HEAVEN REJOICES OVER ONE SINNER WHO REPENTS
Luk 15:6-7 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. (7) I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Repentance of a sinner is SO IMPORTANT, that even heaven rejoices when a sinner repents!!! Why? Because a person has turned away from their sinful ways!
THE PLAN OF SALVATION
Mar 1:15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Luk_24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Jesus taught repentance in conjunction with the remission of sins, which takes place during the salvation process. And that repentance and the remission of sins should be preached in His name.
Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Mar 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Joh 7:38-39 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (39) (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
In the above scriptures, Jesus commands that, for a person to be saved they must believe the gospel (Believe on the Lord), repent, be water baptized and receive the Holy Ghost to be saved. More about "The Born Again Experience" here.
PETER PREACHES REPENTANCE
Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We can see hear, Peter preaches the same thing Jesus taught; Repentance, water baptism FOR THE remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
THE GOODNESS OF GOD LEADS TO REPENTANCE
Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
God's goodness, mercy and forgiveness is not something to know only, but it is something that we can feel! When a person seeks God with all their heart, God will reveal His goodness to that person!
GODLY SORROW WORKS REPENTANCE
2Co 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
The whole basis of repentance is to turn from sin with a godly sorrow. Godly sorrow will make you feel like you have done wickedly before God; you will feel ashamed. You will feel this way when you feel God's presence and goodness... he even extends mercy to help you repent!!! It's AWESOME!
The troubling trend in the church world, is that "repentance" is sometimes taken for granted. People that believe that all you have to do to be saved is believe and confess your sins only, often miss the whole point about repenting.
Confessing and repenting of one’s sin is two different things. Confession means to tell God you are a sinner (confess sins), while repentance means to turn away from sin and determine in your heart to not go and sin anymore.
The problem that arises with just confessing is that there is only a conscious decision to believe in God, but, there isn't always a true act of repenting and turning from sin within the heart. That is why a lot of people who "Accept the Lord" often still live in sin afterwards. That is not a true conversion back unto God!
Repentance really is the very foundation that a person lays down in their life. When we are born again, we become a new creature as long as we have emptied that old life out; and that is done with godly sorrow that is heart-felt and not just in the mind.
I will close with this... since sin WILL NOT ENTER into heaven, it is CRITICAL that we completely turn away from ALL OUR SIN! Because, we do not want to appear at the Great White Throne Judgment and have God say to us these words...
Mat 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.