“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand”
The importance of repentance in these end times as part of the Good News of Jesus Christ cannot be overstated and is reflected by John the Baptist, whose mission it was to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, preaching a message calling on people to: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand”.
Likewise: “Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’.”(Matthew 4: 17)
Furthermore, God’s Word makes the need for our repentance plain in Ezekiel 18:30-32 “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”
Repentance is translated from the Greek as “change your mind”, which implies the attaining of a Kingdom mind-set as children of our Holy Father. BiblePlus, an online source for Bible study, defines repentance as a conscious turning away from a life apart from God and our sinful actions emphasising that repentance is accompanied by a will to action more than feelings of sorrow.
Jesus emphasised this connection between repentance and action rather than words to the chief priest and elders of the Temple in Matthew 21:28-32 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, `Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “`I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, `I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Jesus made use of another parable to highlight the joy in heaven over one repentant sinner in Luke 15:4-10 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Today, the need for repentance both personally and nationally is no less pressing an issue than 2 000-years ago.
10 Days of Repentance
Although unintentional, it is more than coincidence that the meeting calling for a National Day of Repentance (NDR) in Bloemfontein on September 13 coincides with the start of the 10 days between and including the Jewish festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that are known as the 10 Days of Repentance.
According to biblesforisrael.com the Jewish High Holy Days also known as the Days of Awe—Rosh Hashanah (when the Hebrew year of 5776 begins) and ten days later, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are the most revered days in the Hebrew calendar, when God judges all of mankind.
This is a period in the Hebrew calendar of reflection, introspection and repentance before those “days of judgment.”
Furthermore, the Bloemfontein vision for a National Day of Repentance meeting is being closely followed by a National Day of Repentance in Zambia on October 25, that the President, Edgar Lungu, will attend and to which South African farmer-evangelist Angus Buchan has been invited.
If all of that is not enough of an emphasis on the need for us to focus on repentance, then it is worth noting that this period also marks the end of the Hebrew-calendar shemitah year and start of the Jubilee year, which is called the year of the Lord.
A shemitah (shmita in Hebrew that literally means release) year is a sabbatical year that takes place every seventh year, which requires that agricultural land be allowed to lie fallow, as a Sabbath for the earth, while the poor are permitted to help themselves to fruit that falls from trees and personal debts are forgiven.
In a Hebrew Nation News special report Laura Densmore explains that the Jubilee year is calculated by counting seven sets of shemitah years, 7 X 7 = 49, and then the Jubilee begins on year 49 on the Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur and ends on Day of Atonement of Year 50.
We are told about the Jubilee in Leviticus 25:8-11 “And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine”.
Blessing and judgment
Densmore says, “A Jubilee year brings both great BLESSING and RESTORATION and LIBERTY and it also brings JUDGMENT, all rolled up in one, happening at the same time…..
“A Jubilee year is BLESSING to those who are humble, repentant, seeking to SHEMA, to hear and obey by the Holy Spirit. It is the year of RELEASE of the captives, return to your homeland, canceling of debts…freedom for the slaves…. (See all of Leviticus 25)…….
“But, for those who are unrepentant of sin, the Jubilee year is a JUDGMENT; we see this in Lev 26:14-17,” writes Densmore.
The Bloemfontein vision for a National Day of Repentance meeting takes place at a highly significant time and is a call for us both nationally and individually to humble ourselves and repent before the Lord.
The meeting can be seen as a call for all Christians to intercede on behalf of our nation for repentance, because repentance is a necessary precursor to both salvation and revival.
As Densmore makes clear, this is a time of great grace from Lord God Almighty for coming into a deeper union with Him through repentance, but for those who do not make use of the opportunity, it is sure to lead to His judgement.
This is made evident in Acts 17:29-31 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone –an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Paul stresses this again in Acts 20:21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
Paul emphasises the urgency for us to repent and make use of God’s grace again in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.
Again we are reminded of the urgency to come into repentance in 2 Peter 3:9-10 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
The Bloemfontein vision for a National Day of Repentance meeting is vital in our personal and national lives as followers of Jesus Christ and for those who cannot attend, they can participate by standing in the gap, interceding for the meeting and repenting themselves, for the Lord wants everyone to come to repentance.
Indeed, it is as if the Lord is imploring us to come to repentance in Revelation. 3:19-20 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.