No unrepentant sinner will ever enter Heaven!
"I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” - Jesus Christ (Luke 15:7)
"Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” - Jesus Christ (Luke 15:10)
"Then He said to them, 'Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.'" - Jesus Christ (Luke 24:46-48)
"Jesus answered and said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.'” - Jesus Christ (Luke 5:31-32)
“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." - Apostle Peter (Acts 3:17-21)
"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” - Apostle Paul (Acts 17:30-31a)
"...I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." - Apostle Paul (Acts 20:20-21)
"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God" - Author of Hebrews (6:1)
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." - Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:9)
Repentance and faith are "twin graces" and both are essential elements in salvation (conversion). “[R]epentance and faith belong together. They denote two aspects in conversion that are equally essential to it. Thus, either term implies the presence of the other because each reality (repentance or faith) is the sine qua non of the other. ...In grammatical terms, then, the words repent and believe both function as a synecdoche—the figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. Thus, repentance implies faith and faith implies repentance. One cannot exist without the other. ...In believing he [the sinner] repents and in repenting believes. Perhaps R. L. Dabney expressed it best when he insisted that repentance and faith are ‘twin’ graces (perhaps we might say ‘conjoined twins’). ...In no case...can real conversion take place apart from the presence of both repentance and faith...Yes, repentance and faith are two essential elements in conversion. They constitute twin graces that can never be separated.” (source: “Faith and Repentance” by Sinclair Ferguson - Ligonier Ministries)*
What Repentance Is
The biblical definition of the word repent is “to change one’s mind” from the Greek word metanoia. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action (direction) which in return will result in a change of life. What good is changing your mind if it does not also change your life? A changed mind that does not result in a changed life is not a true change (true repentance) but a mere mental assent to facts about God. Like one pastor was fond of saying, "If your faith hasn't changed you, it hasn't saved you." That said, a changed life is the result (evidence) of salvation, not the cause. It is the fruit of salvation, not the root. (See: The Timing and Motivation for Good Works, What Are “Dead Works”? - Ligonier Min., and Why is faith without works dead? - GotQuestions).
Repentance is a change of mind that involves all of the mind including the heart (emotions) and the will (volition), not just the intellect as some have supposed. It is a complete surrender of the entire person (a supernatural work of God) and is a proper response to the conviction of sin. Henry Morris III writes, "Repentance is not an apology for specific sins, it is a heart-mind-soul turning from self-righteous sufficiency to God’s holiness."
Repentance is a grace of God (to "repent" is a command just like to "believe" is a command but God gives us the grace to do what He commands: repent and believe) (see Evangelism: A Matter of Repentance & Faith - Tim Conway). Repentance is a work of the Holy Spirit (grace to us) in the sinner’s mind and heart brought about by the preaching of the Law of God. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7a). Not that the Law of God saves for the Law cannot save. “The proper use of the Law is not as a means of salvation, but to bring conviction of sin” (see: The Proper Use Of The Law (1 Timothy 1:8-11) - Bible.org). The Law of God brings conviction and believing the Gospel brings salvation (see: Galatians 3:24-27). God converts (saves) the sinner by His undeserved grace, not by him keeping the Law (he cannot and has not), not by earned merit (he has none) and not by works which he has done (all his works are filthy rags) (see: Ephesians 2:8-9, James 2:10, Titus 3:5; 2:11, Isaiah 64:6).
The preaching of the Gospel (the true Gospel that is contained in the Word of God: the Bible) is essential in conversion. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). Bible expositor John Gill writes regarding Romans 10:14 "that hearing they might believe, and so call upon the name of the Lord, and be saved...since there can be no true calling upon God without faith, no faith without hearing, no hearing without preaching.”
No one can come to God unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Jesus said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). God is the One who does the converting (saving) but not minus His Word. The preaching of the Word of God is essential in conversion (salvation) but this also is a grace of God. "The word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance…The word of the truth of the gospel…is bringing forth fruit…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Acts 20:32; Colossians 1:5-6; and Romans 10:17 - see: A Reminder Concerning the Word of God's Grace by Bob Hoekstra - Blue Letter Bible).
(As previously stated) true repentance is not a mere mental assent to facts about God, but a turning to God, from trusting in self to trusting in God, and in particular, to trusting (believing) in the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead for the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life.
What Repentance Is Not
Repentance is not simply a synonym for faith. Salvation includes both repentance and faith (inseparable yet distinct). “Repentance and faith are two separate things that come together for salvation, but they act together as one thing. ...‘Repentance is included in believing. ‘Howbeit, repentance is not faith, nor faith repentance. ‘He that believeth,’ implies repentance. ‘Repent and be converted,’ involves faith. ... Repentance and faith can never be separated. ‘Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ac. 20:21). ‘Ye repented NOT ... that ye might believe Him’ (Mt. 21:32). (James Stewart, Evangelism, p. 49).’” (source: “Is Repentance the Same as Faith?” By David Cloud - Way of Life)* (See: Faith and Repentance Inseparable - Charles Spurgeon - One Way Jesus)
Repentance is not the same as making restitution (making right past wrongs). While the concept of making restitution with a neighbor(s) you have wronged is biblical, "[r]estitution is to be a result of our salvation—it is not a requirement for salvation" (see: What does the Bible say about restitution? - GotQuestions). There is nothing that you can do to make right with the God you have wronged (sinned against) except repent and believe the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). It’s His sacrifice alone that brings reconciliation (makes restitution) with God satisfying the wrath of God against the sinner and bringing him into a right relationship with God.
Repentance is not the same as penance. "'[D]oing penance' as a means of atoning for sin or of appeasing God is nowhere taught in the Bible. It is not our works that make us right with God. In fact, our works are considered as nothing more than 'filthy rags' in His eyes (Isaiah 64:6). It is the blood of Christ that makes us right: 'How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God' (Hebrews 9:14)" (see: Is penance mentioned in the Bible? - GotQuestions).
Restitution, penance, doing good can never take away a single sin. This is what the Bible calls works and works cannot save anyone! (See: No one will ever enter heaven by their own good works and 8 Reasons Why We Can't Work Our Way To Heaven). Similarly, repentance is also not quitting sinning or "cleaning up yourself first" before you can come to God for saving (this is "getting the cart before the horse"). I like what one preacher said:
"The call to Repentance in salvation is not 'clean up your act first for Jesus to accept you and save you.' You don't get good to get saved; you get saved to get good. Repentance is a deep conviction that you can no longer continue on the road that you are on, a road of destruction...a road of self rule or self righteousness, which leads to eternal ruin. And with that conviction, you turn to Christ in faith believing that He is the only Savior able to set you free from the penalty and power of sin through His substitutionary death and resurrection from the grave."
What about emotions?
It’s often sorrow and regret over sin preceded by an acknowledgement of sin (the intellect) that leads someone to repent (change their mind) and turn to Christ. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted" (2 Cor 7:10a; see: What is godly sorrow? - GotQuestions). You should feel sorry concerning your sins (sin is rebellion against God and separates us from Him and put Christ on the cross), however feeling sorry or bad about your sins does not save you. It's only by trusting in Christ and not your feelings (emotions) that you are saved.
What about behavior?
As I have stated above, feeling sorry or bad about your sins (regret, remorse) doesn’t save you but neither does changing your behavior (reform) or a combination thereof (see: Why is being a good person not enough to get you into heaven? - One Way Jesus). The British preacher Charles Spurgeon famously said, "Morality may keep you out of jail, but it takes the blood of Jesus Christ to keep you out of hell." The only thing that will save you is the blood of Jesus that was shed for your sins and mine! Saving faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, His finished work on the cross, but you must repent and believe!
The salvation process: Knowledge and conviction of sin (through the law and Spirit of God); sorrow for sin; repentance (change of mind) and faith in Christ
In short, God brings the convicted sinner to Himself through repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ (via the Word of God and the Holy Spirit) in an initial act known as justification (the sinner is made right with God). Subsequent to justification is sanctification: the process of becoming more like Christ (we must be careful not to import sanctification into justification turning salvation into a work). Justification happens in a moment of time. Sanctification is post-justification and is a continual process throughout the earthly life of the believer. All of this is by God's grace. It is God's grace that saves and it is God's grace that sanctifies! (See: What is sanctification? - GotQuestions)
Please watch the videos below on repentance. (After watching the videos) if you understand repentance and faith and your need for the Savior, you can pray the suggested prayer below confessing yourself a sinner to God and expressing your desire to transfer your trust from yourself to Christ. If you do not yet fully understand the Gospel, please see: So...What is the Gospel?
The following prayer expresses the desire to transfer trust to Christ alone for eternal salvation. If its words speak of your own heart’s desire, praying them can be the link that will connect you to God.
Dear God, I know that I am a sinner and there is nothing that I can do to save myself. I confess my complete helplessness to forgive my own sin or to work my way to heaven. At this moment I trust Christ alone as the One who bore my sin when He died on the cross. I believe that He did all that will ever be necessary for me to stand in your holy presence. I thank you that Christ was raised from the dead as a guarantee of my own resurrection. As best as I can, I now transfer my trust to Him. I am grateful that He has promised to receive me despite my many sins and failures. Father, I take you at your word. I thank you that I can face death now that you are my Savior. Thank you for the assurance that you will walk with me through the deep valley. Thank you for hearing this prayer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Not good enough to be saved? by John Barnett
Can a Christian Live in Sin and Still Go to Heaven? by John Barnett
Hell Was Not Made for Humans by John Barnett