One of the criminals who hung there hurled abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered and rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We are suffering justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our sins; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!" And Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." - Luke 23: 39-43
Jesus Christ and His forerunner, John the Baptist, began their public ministries with the same words: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” What does the command to repent (literally to "change your mind") have to do with God's Kingdom?
Repentance means more than feeling sorry for your sins, though that's part of it. To repent means to change your mind about how you're living, to turn your heart from sin to the living God, which then leads to a reformed life. As the Baptist preached: "Produce fruit in accordance with repentance." This inner transformation marks the entrance to a new life characterized by humility and love, making the individual fit for God's Kingdom, which is made only for the righteous. This righteousness is acquired by faith expressed by repentance and lived out through love and good works.
But what about those who "repent" at the end of their lives and cannot experience this external transformation?