On the Way into The Kingdom (Part I)

InnocentBy Innocent, Bishop of Kamchatka (1833) “Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven”

NOTE : This is the complete work unlike some modern Greek Catholic versions that have removed certain parts to make it sound less “western.” However, any Christian in any Tradition – East or West – can heartedly embrace this wonderful work. It is scriptural and evangelical. Only some archaic language has been updated and bold letters have been added for emphasis.

Introduction

People were not created merely to live here on earth like animals that disappear after their death, but to live with God and in God, and to live not for a hundred or a thousand years, but to live eternally. But only Christians can live with God: that is to say, those who rightly believe in Jesus Christ.

Everyone, whoever he may be, desires and seeks prosperity and happiness. To desire what is good for oneself and to seek prosperity or happiness is part of man’s nature, and, therefore, it is not a sin or vice. But we need to know that here on earth there has not been, is not, and never will be true and perfect happiness and prosperity; for all our prosperity and happiness is only in God. No one will ever find true happiness and perfect prosperity without God or outside God.

Nothing in this world but God can fill our heart or fully satisfy our desires. A fire cannot be put out with brushwood and oil because only water will put it out. In exactly the same way, the desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied with the goods of this world because only the grace of God can quench the thirst of our desires.

Everything we desire pleases us only so long as we do not possess it; and when we get it, we soon get tired of it. Or only what we do not as yet have seems to us good and attractive; whereas all that we have, even though it is the very best, is either not enough for us or does not attract us. A good example of this is King Solomon, who, as is well known, was so rich that all the household plate and furniture in his palaces was of pure gold; he was so wise that kings came to visit him; and he was so glorious that his foes were terrified of him. Being wiser and mightier than all his contemporaries, he was able to satisfy all his wishes and desires, so that there was hardly a thing in the world that he did not possess or could not obtain. But with all this he could not satisfy his heart, and the desires of his heart wearied and tormented him far more than an ordinary man; and in the end, having tried everything in the world, he said in his writings, “Everything in this world is vanity, and nothing can satisfy our desires.”

Truly, not a single earthly pleasure can satisfy our heart. We are strangers on earth, pilgrims and travelers; our home and fatherland are there in heaven, in the heavenly kingdom; and there do not exist on earth things that could perfectly satisfy our desires. Let a man own the whole world and all that is in the world, yet all that will not interest him for more than a minute, so to speak, and it will never satisfy his heart; for the heart of man can be fully satisfied only by the love of God, and therefore God alone can fill the heart and soul of man and quench the thirst of his desires.

And so, do you wish to live with God there, in the kingdom of heaven? Be an orthodox Christian. Do you want prosperity and happiness? Seek it in God. Do you want your heart to be fully satisfied? Turn it to God from Whom you have been separated by your sins.

However, no one by himself, without Jesus Christ, can turn and draw near to God, because our sins, like a high wall, do not let us come to Him. And unless Jesus Christ in His mercy to us had come down to earth, and unless He had taken to Himself our human flesh and by His death destroyed the wall that separated us from God, everyone would have perished and not a single soul could have drawn near to God or lived with Him. For everyone is a sinner and is born in sin from his mother’s womb; and even in an infant, although it knows nothing of the world and does nothing, there is already the seed of sin.

Therefore Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, Savior, Deliverer, and Benefactor. Now everyone who wants to do so can return to God and enter the kingdom of heaven.

But there is only one way into the kingdom of heaven, and that is the very way that Jesus Christ went when He lived on earth. There is no other way, and never was, and never will be, for Jesus Christ said, “I am the way” (John 14:6). “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt 16:24).

And so, for every Christian, and even for every human being, it is extremely necessary to know how to find the way and how to follow it. And here I want to talk to you about this way; and although I know myself that I cannot show it to you as I ought, yet I shall try according to my powers, trusting in Jesus Christ Who can use dirt itself for healing and curing.

Now, whoever comes across my book and wants to read it will find in it nothing but a poor and feeble explanation of the way into the kingdom of heaven. But if anyone reads it through with prayer to Jesus Christ, He, being almighty, even by these words of mine can enlighten and warm the heart of the reader.

I divide my book into four parts: (1) on the benefits that Jesus Christ has granted us by His death; (2) how Jesus Christ lived on earth, and what He suffered for us; (3) the way by which we must go into the kingdom of heaven; and (4) how Jesus Christ helps us to go by this way, and how we can receive this help.

O Lord Jesus Christ, to You I cry: Hearken unto me, Your unworthy servant! Enlighten my mind; grant that I may truly and clearly describe Your way into the kingdom of glory that You, in Your mercy, has granted us! Grant that those who read and listen to my words may be filled with Your, enlightened by Your knowledge, and made strong by Your power. Warm our hearts with Your Spirit, and we shall joyfully and fervently go the way that You have shown us.

CHAPTER 1 “The Blessings That Jesus Christ Has Granted Us by His Death”

Before speaking of this, let us look at the blessings that Adam had in paradise before he committed sin, and at the evil that Adam suffered after he had committed sin, and with him all men.

The first man, being created in the image and likeness of God, until he had blurred the likeness of God by his self-will, was blessed in that very image and likeness of God. Just as God has no end and is eternal, so, too, was Adam created immortal. God is all-righteous, and Adam was created sinless and righteous. God is all-happy, and Adam was created happy, and his happiness could have increased day by day throughout all eternity.

Adam lived in a most beautiful paradise, in a garden planted by God Himself, where he was content with everything. He was always healthy and well, and he would never have known any kind of sickness. He was not afraid of anyone or anything. All the animals and birds obeyed him as their king. He felt neither cold nor heat. And although he labored and worked in paradise, yet he worked with pleasure and delight and did not find toil burdensome or work tiring.

His heart and soul were full of knowledge and love of God. He was always quiet and happy, and he never knew and never saw anything unpleasant, upsetting, painful, or sad. All his desires were pure, right, and in order. His memory, intellect, and all the other faculties of his soul were perfect. And being innocent and pure, he always lived with God and conversed with Him, and God loved him as His favorite son. In short, Adam was in paradise, and paradise was in Adam.

Now, if Adam had not broken the commandment of his Creator, he would have been happy himself, and all his descendants would have always been happy, too. But Adam sinned before God and broke His law, and the easiest law; and for that reason God banished him from paradise, because God cannot live with sin or with a sinner.

Adam at once lost the happiness he had enjoyed in paradise. His soul was darkened, his thoughts and desires were muddled, his imagination and memory began to be clouded. Instead of joy and peace of soul, he saw sorrow, afflictions, troubles, poverty, the most painful labors, and every kind of adversity; finally, sickly old age threatened him, and after that—death. But the most horrible thing of all was that the devil, who is consoled by the sufferings of men, gained power over Adam.

The very elements, that is, the air, fire, and so forth, that had previously served Adam and ministered to his pleasure, then became hostile to him. From that time, Adam and all his descendants began to feel hunger, heat, and the effects of change of winds and weather. Wild animals became savage, and began to look upon people as their enemies and as prey. From that time, people began to feel external and internal diseases that, in the course of time, increased in number and severity. Men forgot that they were brothers and began to attack one another, to hate, to deceive, to torture, and to kill. And finally, after all kinds of bitter labors and anxieties, they had to die; and as they were sinners they had to be in hell and to be eternally and unceasingly tormented there.

No human being by himself could or can restore what Adam lost. And what would have happened to us if Jesus Christ in His mercy had not redeemed us? What would have happened to the whole human race?

God, Who loves us far more than we love ourselves, in His great mercy sent us His Son Jesus Christ to save us. Jesus Christ became a man like us, but without sin.

By His teaching, Jesus Christ scattered the darkness and errors of the human mind and enlightened the whole world with the light of the Gospel. Now everyone who wants to can know the will of God and the means and way to beatitude (happiness).

By His life, Jesus Christ has shown us the way into the heavenly kingdom that Adam lost, and at the same time has shown us how we must seek it and how to follow it.

By His passion and death, Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the debts that we had to pay to God and that we should never have been able to pay; and He has made us, who were slaves of the devil and of sin, children of God. And those torments that we, as transgressors of the will of God, would have had to suffer He bore for us. By His death He delivered us from miseries, from future torment and eternal death.

By His resurrection, Jesus Christ destroyed the gates of hell and opened to us the gates of paradise that had been closed for everyone by Adam’s disobedience; and He conquered and crushed the power of the devil and death, our enemies. So now those who die in faith and hope, believing and trusting in Jesus Christ, through death pass from vain, rotten, and temporal life into a life that is bright, incorruptible, and unending; while for the conquest of the devil and for driving him away, we have the cross and prayer.

By His ascension Jesus Christ glorified the human race; for He ascended to heaven with His body which He will always have.

Finally, by the grace and merits of Jesus Christ, we can now go into the kingdom of heaven and receive support and help along the way; that is, we can all freely and truly receive the Holy Spirit and be filled with Him. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to go the way Jesus Christ went.

If Jesus Christ had not been on earth, no one could have entered the kingdom of heaven. But now we all, each one of us, can easily enter it; but we cannot enter it otherwise than by the way Jesus Christ went when living on earth.

But what the Lord has prepared for us there in heaven, no one can tell or imagine. We can only say that those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow His commandments will, after their death, live with the angels, the righteous, and the saints in heaven and will see God face to face. They will rejoice with pure, constant, and eternal joy, and they will never know weariness, or sorrow, or worry, or torment, or suffering. At the end of the world, they will rise with their bodies and will reign with Christ eternally.

All these benefits Jesus Christ will give not to just one people, but to all without exception. Whoever wants to can receive them. The way has been shown, arranged, and, as far as possible, smoothed and made level. And besides that, Jesus Christ is ready to help us to go this way, and He Himself is willing to lead us by the hand, so to speak. It only remains for us not to oppose Him and not to be obstinate, but to surrender ourselves completely to His will. Let Him lead us where and how He wills.

You see how Jesus Christ loves us and what blessing He has bestowed upon us!

What would happen now if Jesus Christ suddenly appeared before us visibly and asked us, “My children, do you love Me for what I have done for you? And do you feel in your hearts gratitude to Me?” Who of us would not say: “Yes, Lord, we love and thank You”?

But if you love Jesus Christ and consider yourself grateful to Him, will you do what He orders you? Because whoever loves anyone, and whoever feels grateful, will do everything he can to please his benefactor. But Jesus Christ wants from you only one thing: namely, He wants you to follow Him into the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus Christ has done everything for us; cannot we do for Him the one thing He asks? Jesus Christ came down from heaven to earth to save us; for love of Him shall we not be willing to follow Him to heaven? Jesus Christ bore for us all torments and sufferings; shall we not for Jesus Christ be willing to suffer and endure a little?

Blessed and most blessed is he who follows Jesus Christ throughout his whole life, because he will certainly be there where Jesus Christ Himself lives.

Happy is he who cares and tries to imitate Jesus Christ, because he will receive help from Jesus Christ.

But unhappy is he who has no desire to follow Jesus Christ, and excuses himself by saying that it is difficult to follow Him, or he has not the strength for it, because such a person deprives himself of the grace of God and, as it were, pushes away the helping hand of Jesus Christ.

But woe to the man who opposes Jesus Christ and is obstinate and in some manner rises up against Him, because the lot of such people is in the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

(to be continued)

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