Chapter 3, Part 1
From the Old Testament to the New Testament
In the Old Testament, "repentance" is often expressed as to "turn back''. This is just as Ephraim said, "For after I turned back, I repented!" (Jer. 31:19) This kind of ''turn" is not only used by God to call the Israelites to repent as in 'turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, 0 house of Israel?" (Ezek. 33:11) It was used by the Israelites to express their repentance as in "Bring me back that I may be restored!" (Jer. 31:18) This kind of "turning back'' certainly includes a change of heart and a readjustment in living and in character -- to forsake sin and return to righteousness. Even though this kind of change is God's demand, in reality, it is brought about by God's compassion and granting just like Elijah's prayer on Mount Carmel, 'that this people may know...that Thou hast turned their heart back again!" (1 Kgs.18:37) This message is much clearly conveyed in Ezekiel's message. From a negative standpoint, God wants to cleanse them from all their filthiness. From a positive standpoint, He wants to grant them a new heart and put a new spirit in them. In addition, He will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh (Ezek:.36:25, 26). This kind of positive change is what the Lord Jesus spoke of as "repent".
In the New Testament, repent is a combination of two words in the Greek. The first half is a preposition μετα (meta) which has the meaning of "change" or "alter". The word "metamorphosis" (change in shape) is one such example. The second half is a noun νοια (noia), which is a feminine form of the noun νουσ (nous). There is no appropriate Chinese word for nous and there is no equivalent in English. This word appeared in the New Testament 24 times. Although it is translated 4 times as intellectual understanding (1 Cor. 14:14 15, 19), in most instances, the word refers directly or indirectly to the function of the spirit. It is translated as "mind" in the following verses: "Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45). "But I see a different law in the member of my body, waging war against the law of my mind," "I myself with my mind am serving the law of God" (Rom. 7: 23,25), and "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind". So repent is formed by "change" and "mind" (or "heart"). Who can enter the Kingdom in the preparation period? They are those whose minds and hearts have been changed. So, whether or not a person has believed in Jesus or not is entirely a matter of whether or not his mind and thoughts have been changed. If a person is not changed internally, all external ceremonies such as water baptism and confirmation are no other than self gratification that deceives others and one self. They cannot produce spiritual effects.
Then some may ask, "Are we not saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves...and not as a result of works"? Why is it that we have to repent in order to enter the Kingdom? In this verse, the tone of voice our gracious Lord used seems to mean that we are to "regenerate by our own effort". The reason is that the word "repent" in the original Greek language is in the present tense, active voice and imperative mood. He did want us to strive to repent. It seems that this contradicts with "regeneration by faith". But for those who are well versed with the Bible and know God's heart, this is a format of how truth is expressed. In quite a few Scripture verses, God demands us to do what we cannot accomplish. On the one hand He demands us to do but on the other, He provides the grace for us to do it. So when we discover that we are helpless and willing to come to His throne of mercy to claim for strength, He would grant us the grace that He has prepared for us to become our personal enjoyment. Praise the Lord!
Has the reader noticed that different religions have a common idea'? It is a desire to change one's heart and mind. Buddhism uses self-denial and discipline. Islam uses good works to gain merit. Confucianism uses the investigation of things (study) to gain knowledge, to create sincerity in thought, rectify the heart, cultivate the person, regulate the family, govern the states and rule the world. Unfortunately, all these human methods cannot even produce preliminary changes! Mankind knows clearly that his heart is not right and is fully aware of the importance to change the attitude of living but simply is unable! Thank God, He came to help us! "Repentance" is just such a gift. He wants us to change our heart and He also knows that we are unable to regenerate on our own. Therefore, through His death, resurrection, ascension and becoming King and Savior, He grants us repentance (Acts 5:31). So our hearts can be changed and be qualified to enter into the Kingdom of Preparation. But how can we allow the Lord to change our heart? Jesus' answer is: "Believe in the gospel!