Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?
It is true that there are numerous Bible verses that speak of the promise of salvation, with no mention of repentance. These merely say to “believe” on Jesus Christ and you shall be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). However, the Bible makes it clear that God is holy and man is sinful, and that sin makes a separation between the two (Isaiah 59:1,2). Without repentance from sin, wicked men cannot have fellowship with a holy God. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and until we forsake them through repentance, we cannot be made alive in Christ.
The Scriptures speak of “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). We turn from sin to the Savior. This is why Paul preached “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). The first public word Jesus preached was “repent” (Matthew 4:17). John the Baptist began his ministry the same way (Matthew 3:2). Jesus told His hearers that without repentance, they would perish (Luke 13:3).
If belief is all that is necessary for salvation, then the logical conclusion is that one need never repent. However, the Bible tells us that a false convert “believes” and yet is not saved (Luke 8:13); he remains a “worker of iniquity.” Look at the warning of Scripture: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). The Scriptures also say, “He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesses and forsakes them [repentance] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Jesus said that there was joy in heaven over one sinner who “repents” (Luke 15:10). If there is no repentance, there is no joy because there is no salvation.
When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he commanded his hearers to repent “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Without repentance, there is no remission of sins; we are still under His wrath. Peter further said, “Repent . . . and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). We cannot be “converted” unless we repent. God Himself “commands all men everywhere [leaving no exceptions] to repent” (Acts 17:30). Peter said a similar thing at Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you” (Acts 2:38).
If repentance wasn’t necessary for salvation, why then did Jesus command that repentance be preached to all nations (Luke 24:47)? With so many Scriptures speaking of the necessity of repentance for salvation, one can only suspect that those who preach salvation without repentance are strangers to repentance themselves, and thus strangers to true conversion.
Is Suffering the Entrance to Heaven?
In January 2000, a well-known ex-televangelist said on a worldwide TV talk show, “I believe that every person who died in the Holocaust went to heaven.” He was very sincere, and if he was seeking the commendation of the world, he surely got it with that statement. Who wouldn’t consider what he said to be utterly compassionate?
However, let’s look at the implications of his heartfelt beliefs. His statement seemed to limit salvation to the Jews who died in the Holocaust, because he added that “their blood laid a foundation for the nation of Israel.” If the slaughtered Jews made it to heaven, did the many Gypsies who died in the Holocaust also obtain eternal salvation? If his statement includes Gentiles, is the salvation he spoke of limited to those who died at the hands of Nazis? Did the many Frenchmen who met their death at the hands of cruel Nazis go to heaven also?
Perhaps he was saying that the death of Jesus on the cross covered all of humanity, and that all will eventually be saved— something called “universalism.” This means that salvation will also come to Hitler and the Nazis who killed the Jews. However, I doubt if he was saying that. Such a statement would have brought the scorn of his Jewish host, and of the world whose compassion has definite limits. If pressed, he probably didn’t mean that only the Jews in the camps went to heaven, because that smacks of racism.
He was likely saying that those who died were saved because they died in such tragic circumstances. Then Jesus was lying when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). There is another way to heaven—death in a Nazi concentration camp. Does that mean that the many Jews who died under communism went to heaven? Or is salvation limited to German concentration camps? If their salvation came because of the grim circumstances surrounding their death, does a Jew therefore enter heaven after suffering for hours before dying in a car wreck . . . if he was killed by a drunk driver who happened to be German? Bear in mind that his suffering may have been much greater than someone who died within minutes in a Nazi gas chamber.
Many unsaved think we can merit entrance into heaven by our suffering. Their error was confirmed by this sincere, compassionate man of God. They may now disregard the truth, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). They can now save themselves by the means of their own death . . . if they suffer enough.
The ex-televangelist was concerned that his indiscretions of the 1980s brought discredit to the kingdom of God. However, those actions fade into history compared to the damage done by saying that there is another means of salvation outside of Jesus Christ, on a program watched by untold millions around the world. Who on earth needs to repent and trust in Jesus, if millions entered the kingdom without being born again? No one.