The message of John the Baptist, shown in Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:4, and Luke 3:3 is “repentance for the remission of sins”. When Jesus began his ministry after fasting and temptation in the wilderness, his first message was “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) Jesus told the Pharisees that his reason for coming to this earth was to call sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32) As soon as the twelve disciples were selected and began their ministry while Jesus was still alive, we are told that they went out to preach repentance. (Mark 6:12). After the resurrection, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and many were convicted in their heart, the first thing Peter told them to do was “repent, and be baptized” and this message was continually preached in the early church. (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 8:22, Acts 17:30, Acts 26:20) In Revelation, repentance was a major part of the messages to the seven churches. (Revelation 2:5, 2:16, 2:21, 3:3, 3:19)
Since repentance was the first message of John the Baptist, the first message of Jesus Christ, the first message of the disciples before the resurrection, a continuing theme after the resurrection, and the key to overcoming for the seven churches, you must conclude that it is of paramount importance. (Please don’t get the idea that repentance is only a New Testament concept. The word repent and other forms of the word, such as repented, appear in the Old Testament about as often as in the New, and some of the uses in the New Testament are referring to Old Testament characters, such as Esau in Hebrews 12:17.)
That the need to repent is essential is also conveyed in 2 Corinthians 7:10, which says that “godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of”. Strong’s Concordance and Dictionary tells us that the Greek word translated “not to be repented of” at the end means irrevocable, so what this verse is saying is that repentance leads to irrevocable salvation. Is irrevocable salvation something you want to obtain? You now have the key: repentance.
Repentance is not merely saying you are sorry. “Repent” is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life”. It is turning away from repeating that behavior ever again, and dedicating yourself to living a life free of sin. While this may run contrary to some modern church teachings that, for example, focus on prosperity instead of character change, or falsely claim “once saved, always saved”, Scripture is clear that repentance, or a similar concept, obedience, are mandatory, not optional, for salvation.
2 Peter 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.” This would seem to imply that in the end there are two groups: those who repent, and those who will perish. From this day forward, you would be well served to incorporate Psalm 139:23-24 into your daily prayers. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Ask God to reveal to you the areas of your life that need repentance, and make that your life’s work.