I have recently read C.S. Lewis’ book entitled The Great Divorce. Lewis is one of my favorite writers even though his books are not always easy to understand. They do, however, have some of the most profound thoughts that I have ever seen any writer produce. In writing this book, Lewis was writing about the important Christian beliefs of heaven and hell. Lewis chose the title as a response to William Blake’s book written much earlier about the marriage of heaven and hell. Blake proposed that heaven and hell are essentially the same thing and are experienced now. Blake put man at the center of the universe, and his book saw redemption as achieved by self-sacrifice and forgiveness. Lewis wrote to his world in a fictional form, showing what might happen if people from earth could travel to heaven while being completely unprepared for heaven. He demonstrates that one has to be transformed to enjoy heaven. Lewis sees heaven and hell as a choice which is absolutely unavoidable.
The book is like a mirror of ourselves in which we see our attitudes toward God, people, and heaven and hell. Often the picture he shows us of ourselves is not a pretty picture. People have been and are still notorious about denying the reality of a place called hell. They say, “God would not send anyone to hell.” They assert that a Loving God would not send people to such a place. They are right. God would not and does not send anyone to hell. He does, however, respect our ability to make choices. He made us that way. He gave us our own volition which allows us to choose to serve him or reject him, as is evident in these words of Joshua: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
C.S. Lewis describes for us in this book how God sees the operation of our volition: There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.[i]
What Lewis is so eloquently describing is our ability to surrender our wills to God now and receive Jesus, which is God’s gift of eternal life to the world. God freely offers Jesus to all of us and says, “Please choose my son and live.” However, he will not force us to make that choice. He will respect our right to reject his son and live our lives without God. Ultimately, however, there will be a time when we will stand before God, and God will say to us, “Thy will be done.” You wanted to live without me, then I will give you your choice.” That is what hell is—it is a choice to live without God. The choice is made now while we live. Heaven begins on this earth for those who choose Jesus, and Hell begins here now for those who choose to reject God’s gift and live their will.