The Need for Repentance

MEMORY SELECTION: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” —Matthew 3:2

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:6 through 22:14

OUR memory selection records the proclamation of John the Baptist that repentance was in order, and that the kingdom of God was at hand. The Jews had long awaited fulfillment of the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures that one day their Messiah would appear, and now the time had come.

From the Old Testament writings we learn that God had promised that he would provide mankind with a Redeemer and that he would, in due time, cause to be established a kingdom to rescue his human creation from sin and death. Abraham had been promised that this Redeemer and the subsequent blessings to all of the families of the earth would come from his posterity. The Israelites therefore had been watching and waiting, not fully understanding the full significance of this promise concerning Abraham’s Seed.

The Prophet Isaiah had long ago foretold the message of John the Baptist, when he said, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isa. 40:3) And John had the privilege of announcing our Lord Jesus as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29) and of proclaiming the coming kingdom. What a privilege indeed!

John’s mission was to tell the Israelites that Jesus, their Messiah, had come, and that they should begin to prepare themselves for a place in his kingdom—not as a nation, however, but as individuals, for the bride of Christ was to be composed of those who had made a careful search of their hearts as to whether or not they were violating any of God’s laws.

If, after carefully searching their hearts, they found themselves to be in conflict with the laws of truth and righteousness, they were to repent of their wrongdoings, turn from sin, and symbolize their new attitude in the presence of witnesses by a baptism which represented their turning from sin.

And many did come to John to be baptized of him and to confess their sins, even as the Scriptures point out. (Matt. 3:5,6) Others, however, including the Pharisees and Sadducees, were quickly and boldly informed that as the natural descendants of Abraham they would not find a place in the kingdom unless they brought forth fruits suitable for repentance.—Matt. 3:7-9

Then, in pictorial language, John proceeded to explain that the testing time for the Israelites had indeed arrived, and only those individuals who bore fruit in their lives were to be recognized as having a part in the kingdom. Those who did not respond to the call for repentance would suffer the consequences and share in the destruction of the nation that would surely come. John’s figurative description of the trees being hewn down and cast into the fire is an apt illustration, in a prophetic sense, of the great time of trouble and distress that came upon the Jewish nation after their rejection of Messiah.—Matt. 3:10

But John was careful to point out that his work and call to repentance was only a preparatory work for our Lord Jesus, whom he baptized in the river Jordan. For he said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.” (Matt. 3:11) Those who would receive of Jesus’ baptism of the Holy Spirit and remission of sins would become the faithful Israelites indeed—the footstep followers of Messiah. The nation as a whole, including those individuals who did not bear fruit unto repentance, was to pass through the fire period of trouble.

When we think upon the character of John the Baptist and the work which he was commissioned to do, we cannot help but marvel at God’s providences toward him and toward the whole human family who had fallen into sin and death, and were, therefore, unable to help themselves out of their condition. In God’s progressive plan for the eventual recovery of his earthly creation, John was used in a very special way. We are glad for his ministry and the depth of faith which he manifested. Each of us who is living now in the closing years of this dispensation may learn a valuable lesson from that faith.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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