Change of mind; also can refer to regret or remorse accompanying a realization that wrong has been done or to any shift or reversal of thought. In its biblical sense repentance refers to a deeply seated and through turning from self to God. It occurs when a radical turning to God takes place, an experience in which God is recognized as the most important fact of one’s existence.
The concept of a wholehearted turning to God is widespread in the preaching of the OT prophets. Terms such as “return,” turn,” or “seek” are used to express the idea of repentance.
In Amos 4-5 the Lord sends judgment in order for the nation to return to Him. Corporate repentance of the nation is a theme in Hosea (Hos 6:1; 14:2) and the result of Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh (Jon 3:10). Classic call to repentance are found Ezek, 18 and 33 as well as Isa 55. The shift toward an emphasis on individual repentance can be seen in Ezek 18.
Repentance was the keynotes of the preaching of John the Baptist, referring to a complete turn from self to God. A note of urgency is attached to the message, “The kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matt 3:2 HCSB). Those who were prepared to make such a radical reorientation of their lives demonstrated that by being baptized (Mark 1:4). This complete redirection of their lives was to be demonstrated by profound changes in lifestyle and relationships . (Luke 3:8-14).
The emphasis upon a total life change continues in the ministry of Jesus. The message of repentance was at the heart of His preaching (Mark 1:15). When describing the focus of His mission, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32 HCSB).
The call to repentance is a call to absolute surrender to the purposes of God and to live in this awareness. This radical turning to God is requited of all people: “Unless you repent, you will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Those who had witnessed the ministry of Jesus, the reality of God, and His claims on their lives faced serious jeopardy if they failed to repent. Jesus warned of serious consequences for those where His ministry had been rejected: He proceeded to denounce the towns where most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent” (Matt 11:20 HCSB). On the other hand, for the one sinner who repents, there is great “joy in heaven” (Luke 15:7). In His final words to the disciples, Jesus commanded that the same message of repentance He had preached would be preached to all nations (Luke 24:47).