Repentance, the Commandments, and the Kingdom
by Michael K. Lake, Th.D.
Matthew 3:1-2 (KJV)
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
We need to realize the audience that heard their message was not a group of sinners. They were speaking to the people of God. Because of this distinctive in the Gospel narrative, we can make this just as applicable to the Church today. Both John and Jesus were speaking to the “called out ones.” In Hebrew, they were the "qahal." In Greek, they are the "ekklesia." The same concept is represented in both languages. When the Hebrews gathered in the wilderness, we could have easily called them “the church." Although this would make most New Testament ministers nervous, it is exactly what the rabbis did in the Septuagint. They used the Greek word "ekklesia" to represent the Hebrew word "qahal." Therefore, the application of repentance needed by God’s assembled or called out ones is not only acceptable, but when examining church history, it is essential!
We also need to recognize that the individuals in the Gospel narrative knew the commandments of God as given by Moses. Those commandments are an expression of not only God’s wisdom, but also the Kingdom itself. When God freed the people of Israel from Pharaoh, it is a universally accepted type and shadow of Jesus freeing us from Satan and his Kingdom. God freed His people so that He might rule over them and allow them to be expressions of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. This is one reason God promised them that if they stayed faithful to His commandments:
Deuteronomy 11:21 (KJV)
21 That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.
By the time John and Jesus arrived on the scene, God’s people had done something that moved them away from His Kingdom. The only way they could return to God’s Kingdom would be to repent of the concepts and activities that moved them away. Hebraically, the concept of “repentance” included two things: (1) feeling sorry for your sins, and (2) returning to the ways and commandments of God. Unless both aspects of repentance were manifested in the life of an individual, true repentance had not been accomplished.
This would cause one to ask, “What did they add to their expression of faith that moved them away from God’s Kingdom?” Later in the Gospels, Jesus tells us exactly what they added.
Mark 7:6-9 (KJV)
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
- Paganism wrapped in acceptable religious language.
- Men interpreting God’s Word through the matrix of their own carnal desires.
- The influence of our worldly culture creeping into our expression of faith.
I think it is interesting that John’s work of preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus was to return God’s people to true biblical holiness as expressed through the commandments of God that they had replaced with the commandments of men! This clarion call was echoed in the ministry of Jesus, who came to bring the Kingdom.
Twenty-first century theology now tells us that Jesus came to free us from the commandments of God (i.e. the Torah). Why would Jesus free us from something that both His ministry and that of John’s called people to return to?
The traditions of men today cause us to interpret some of Paul’s statements as being anti-Torah. Nothing could be further from the truth! When we examine the whole of the Gospel, the cultural situations, and the problems that “tradition-keepers” in New Testament times were causing, Paul was telling us that Jesus’ call to “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” was expressed fully by the Cross. Jesus came to free us from the perversion of the traditions of men that take us away from God’s pure commandments!
Today, we stand neck-deep in traditions never expressed in scripture (instead they were drawn from pagan cultures) and theologies forged in the hearts of sinful men. To be honest, we cannot truly see God’s Kingdom in any direction.
We stand in the midst of the generation that may very well see the return of Jesus. Should we not expect the anointing (spirit) of Elijah to fall upon us just like it did John the Baptist and cry out “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand?” Such a call would be to return to the commandments of God through the power of the risen Messiah.
Today, hope rises within us for a new outpouring of the Pentecost power: to be true witnesses of Jesus in the earth by living by God’s standards and manifesting His Kingdom in a dark and spiritually dry world.
© Copyright 2012 by Michael K. Lake, Th.D. All Rights Reserved.
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