by Michael Phillips
A prominent atheist dies unexpectedly and goes to hell. Or so it appears…but nothing is what it seems in this engrossing allegorical novel about the afterlife. In the tradition of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce and John Bunyon’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Michael Phillips has produced a riveting tale of eternity. Hell and Beyond is a lively and fascinating trip through the afterlife—one that will inspire you to re-discover the significance of your life here and now.
☻☻☻☻☻ (5 out of 5 smiles)
Hell and Beyond IS A NOVEL! Michael Phillips reminds his readers repeatedly that this book is a work of fiction—a journey of his imagination. It’s not a theological treatise or a biblical study of hell. If you enjoyed The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, you will probably enjoy this book—as long as you remember that it’s FICTION. Having clarified that, I can continue with the review—because this book rocked my world.
I am no theologian, but I’ve done enough study of heaven and hell to know what I believe God’s Word teaches on the subject. It is eternal—either living with God or eternally dying without Him. At its root, Hell and Beyond did not deny my convictions, but it certainly poked and prodded every traditional interpretation I’d snuggled into.
When a devout Atheist “awakens” in the afterlife and is met by the “One,” he’s given a choice to enter the pit of suffering or return to life and forget his supernatural encounter. FICTION! The One then asks if the atheist has anything to give Him, and the atheist seems to check his pockets as if having misplaced a dollar bill or two. But the One explains what He seeks from all humans who arrive in the afterlife:
“The Self of your journey is what made the journey with you…It is now time for you to see what you have made of it. It was given to you by my Father when He breathed life into you—spotless, clean, pure, alive with possibility and potential for development. Every moment of your life was filled with opportunities for you to grow into one who would give him pride and pleasure…” Chapter 3—A Question and a Choice
The Atheist didn’t know enough to tremble—yet—but he chose to take a tour of the afterlife with several guides. These guides were a very troubling part of this story…some of them had been known to the Atheist as Christians, and yet they had to endure some of the same lessons the Atheist experienced because of the choices they’d made on earth. Gulp.
So much in this book caused me to search my heart deeper, read my Bible closer, linger in prayer longer. Perhaps the most influential words from any of the Atheist’s guides came from “the Scotsman,” a man Phillips blatantly fashioned after George MacDonald (author of Phantastes and Lilith). It was the concept of “childness” that will remain with me forever:
“For Christians who understood its power, the Cross worked childness into their characters every moment. That reality is the reason those who truly believed in their former lives do not need to face the same journey here that you do. They learned childness from the indwelling Spirit of Christ working righteousness into them…For those who refused to learn childness before, the fleshly nature can no longer be the tool of self-abjuration. On this side the altar is the fire.” (emphasis added) Chapter 20—The Essential School of Childness
In “A Final Word from Michael Phillips,” the author explains his purpose for this NOVEL:
“I have tried to set forth possibilities about what may be in God’s heart to accomplish in eternity, but not in any way to predict how he might work toward such ends.”
If you’d like to read more about Michael Phillips or engage in lively conversation about this book, you can find him at www.DareToThinkBigAboutGod.com on the page entitled, “Hell and Beyond—An Ongoing Discussion.”