“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10
“Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
The book Steps to Christ is exactly what the title implies—a chronological step-by-step explanation of how to come to Christ and be saved. The third step in this progression to salvation is “Repentance.” Repentance follows the two chapters “God’s Love for Man” and “The Sinner’s Need of Christ.”
This is not an arbitrary order. These are truly steps, with each one presented in its necessary place, one after another. The sinner must first see and understand God’s love, and in seeing the depth, the breadth of this love the sinner then sees his own need when he sees his evil and degradation in comparison with the matchless purity and love of God. These two steps, “God’s Love for Man” and “The Sinner’s Need of Christ,” necessarily then lead him to the next step, which is repentance. Here we are going to look at repentance from a rather unusual perspective. We are going to glean lessons from an unconventional illustration—Lucifer. We do not often think of Lucifer as having repented.
In the following inspired narration, there are many valuable lessons to be gleaned, but we are going to focus on just the aspect of repentance.
We pick up the story of Lucifer and the fallen angels after they have been expelled from heaven, after the creation of this world, but before the fall of man. Let’s read an inspired description of the thoughts, the emotions, the thinking, the reasoning of this mighty, though fallen angel, his state, and the state of those who chose to listen to his reasoning and sophistry.
“The hour for joyful happy songs of praise to God and His dear Son had come. Satan had led the heavenly choir. He had raised the first note, then all the angelic host united with him, and glorious strains of music had resounded through Heaven. But now, instead of strains of sweetest music, discord and angry words fall upon the ear of the great rebel leader.
“Satan stood in amazement at his new condition. His happiness was gone. He looked upon the angels who, with him, were once so happy, but who had been expelled from heaven with him. Before their fall not a shade of discontent had marred their perfect bliss. Now all seemed changed. Countenances which had reflected the image of their Maker were gloomy and despairing. Strife, discord, and bitter recrimination were among them. Previous to their rebellion these things had been unknown in Heaven. Satan now beheld the terrible results of his rebellion. He shuddered, and feared to face the future, and to contemplate the end of these things. Where was he? Was it not all a horrible dream? Was he shut out of Heaven? Were the gates of Heaven never more to open and admit him? Bright, holy angels bow before the Father, but no more will Satan unite with them in heavenly song. No more will he bow in reverence and holy awe before the presence of the eternal God. Could he be again as when he was pure, true, and loyal, gladly would he yield up the claims of his authority. But he was lost beyond redemption, for his presumptuous rebellion! And this was not all; he had led others to rebellion and to the same lost condition with himself—angels who had never thought to question the will of Heaven, or refuse obedience to the law of God till he had put it into their minds, presenting before them that they might enjoy a greater good, a higher and more glorious liberty. This had been the sophistry whereby he had deceived them. A responsibility now rests upon him from which he would fain be released.
“These fallen spirits had become turbulent with disappointed hopes. Instead of greater good, they were experiencing the sad results of disobedience and disregard of law. Never more would these unhappy beings be swayed by the mild rule of Jesus Christ. Never more would their spirits be stirred by the deep, earnest love, peace, and joy, which His presence had ever inspired in them, to be returned to Him in cheerful obedience and reverential honor.
“Satan trembled as he viewed his work. He was alone, in meditation upon the past, the present, and the future. His mighty frame shook as with a tempest. An angel from Heaven was passing. Satan called him, and entreated an interview with Christ. This was granted. He then related to Him that he repented of his rebellion, and wished again to enjoy the favor of God. He was willing to take the place which had been assigned him, and be under Christ’s command. The Son of God wept at Satan’s woe, but told him, as the mind of the Father, that this could never be. Heaven must not be placed in jeopardy. The peace of Heaven would be marred, should he be received back; for sin originated with him; the seeds of rebellion were still within him. He had no occasion for his course, and he had not only hopelessly ruined himself, but the host of angels also, who would still have been happy in Heaven had he remained steadfast. The law of God could condemn, but could not pardon.” The Signs of the Times, January 16, 1879.
Here we see a picture of Lucifer, once the covering cherub, in rank next to the Son of God Himself, contemplating the results of his pride and rebellion, “his mighty frame” trembling as with a tempest. Lucifer regretted his work, his rebellion, his pride, his choices. He wishes again to enjoy the favor of God. He is willing to take the place God had assigned to him. He is willing to be under Christ’s command. Many people, and maybe even most people, would look upon these thoughts, feelings and emotions as tokens of genuine repentance; a genuine desire to return to a pure and holy state, but were they?
Let’s revisit the response from Christ, remembering who this Christ is—the compassionate, loving, forgiving God; the very same Divine Being who, because of love for His fallen creation [that is, man] left His own high position as the Majesty of heaven to come to this earth, clothed in the garb of man; willing to suffer the scorn and rebuke of sinners, to die the cruelest of deaths that the sinner might be rescued from the penalty of sin and once more be reconciled to a perfect, pure, and holy God. How does this Christ respond to the repenting Lucifer, once the covering cherub, the one closest to Himself in the ranks of heaven?
“The Son of God wept at Satan’s woe.” Friends, Christ is in grief. Christ is sorrowing over this fallen creation. But does He forgive? Does He accept Lucifer’s sorrow over his condition? Does He reinstate Lucifer in his position? Does He allow Him back into heaven? “The Son of God wept at Satan’s woe, but told him, as the mind of the Father, that this could never be. Heaven must not be placed in jeopardy. The peace of Heaven would be marred, should he be received back, for sin originated with him; the seeds of rebellion were still within him. He had no occasion for his course, and he had not only hopelessly ruined himself, but the host of angels also, who would still have been happy in Heaven had he remained steadfast. The law of God could condemn, but could not pardon.”
Why could Lucifer’s “repentance” not be accepted? This is where we can learn eternal life and death lessons from Lucifer. The inspired word of our God records the reasons why Lucifer’s “repentance” was not accepted. These things are recorded for our instruction, our protection, our own salvation.
“Satan did not repent of his rebellion because he saw the goodness of God which he had abused. The wretchedness he realized in losing the sweet light of Heaven, the sense of guilt which forced itself upon him, and the disappointment he experienced in not finding his expectations realized, were the cause of his grief. To be commander out of Heaven, was vastly different from being thus honored in Heaven. The loss of all the privileges of Heaven seemed too much to be borne. He wished to regain these.” Ibid., January 16, 1879.
Let’s look at the reasons for which Satan did or did not repent. Obviously the reasons for his repentance were not the right reasons. So we can learn what type of repentance is not acceptable. In this way we are able to learn what kind of repentance is necessary in order to be accepted.
“Satan did not repent of his rebellion because he saw the goodness of God which he had abused.” Did Lucifer repent because he saw the goodness, the love of God, which he had abused? No, it says that was not one of the reasons for his “repentance.” Acceptable repentance is repentance triggered by an understanding of the goodness of God, God’s love, we could say, and by our acknowledgment that we have abused that goodness. This is one example of an acceptable reason for repentance.
Another acceptable reason for repentance is found in the book Steps to Christ. Though this is stated in the negative—what is lacking is stated—we understand that repentance was not granted because something was missing, something that is required for genuine repentance. “There was no deep, heartbreaking grief in his soul, [that is, Judas’] that he had betrayed the spotless Son of God and denied the Holy One of Israel.” Steps to Christ, 24. What Judas lacked was deep, heartbreaking grief for betraying and denying Christ. We must have a deep heartbreaking grief for betraying and denying Christ. Remember friends, every time we sin, if we claim the name Christian, we betray and deny Christ.
“The sinner has a sense of the righteousness of Jehovah and feels the terror of appearing, in his own guilt and uncleanness, before the Searcher of hearts. He sees the love of God, the beauty of holiness, the joy of purity; he longs to be cleansed and to be restored to communion with Heaven.” Ibid.
The following are acceptable reasons for repentance:
1) An understanding of the goodness of God, and that we have abused that goodness.
2) There is a sense of the righteousness of Jehovah and feel the terror of appearing, in our own guilt and uncleanness, before the Searcher of hearts.
3) We see the love of God, the beauty of holiness, the joy of purity.
4) We long to be cleansed.
5) We long to be restored to communion with heaven.
What are unacceptable reasons for repentance? We return to the story of Lucifer. “The wretchedness he realized in losing the sweet light of Heaven, the sense of guilt which forced itself upon him, and the disappointment he experienced in not finding his expectations realized, were the cause of his grief. To be commander out of Heaven, was vastly different from being thus honored in Heaven. The loss of all the privileges of Heaven seemed too much to be borne. He wished to regain these.” The Signs of the Times, January 16, 1879.
1) He realized his wretchedness
2) He had a sense of guilt
3) He was disappointed in not finding his expectations realized
4) He realized the loss of privilege, even the privilege of heaven
5) He had a desire to regain the privilege of heaven
Friends, what is the difference between these manifestations of repentance, that which is acceptable, and that which is not? One centers around our Saviour and how our rebellion, our pride, our evil, affects God, how it betrays the spotless Son of God, denies the Holy One of Israel, and abuses the goodness of God. The other manifestation of repentance, unacceptable repentance, centers around a loss for self, feeling pity for ourselves in our wretchedness, feeling discomfort over our guilt, having disappointment in our expectations not being met, loss of privilege for self, wanting to regain privilege for self. One kind of repentance is self-centered; the other is pain, sorrow, grief for injuring another, even God Himself.
Have you examined your own repentance? Is it the Godly sort, or is it the sort of repentance first exhibited and practiced by the instigator of evil and sin, the very epitome of selfishness and self-absorption and pride?
The reality is that if we have not prayed for true repentance, it will be the repentance of Lucifer, for Inspiration tells us that even repentance must be given us of God (Acts 5:31). Steps to Christ explains it in these words: “A repentance such as this [that is, such as David’s true repentance], is beyond the reach of our own power to accomplish; it is obtained only from Christ, who ascended up on high and has given gifts unto men.” Steps to Christ, 25.
Oh, friends, if you have not recognized the different reasons for repentance, those that are acceptable and those that are not, if you have not prayed for true repentance, the repentance which Christ alone can give, bow your heads and pray for God to give you His repentance that we may be saved; that we may be accepted into the courts of the heavenly kingdom where sin will never, never be allowed again to enter.
All quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.