I have a thought, a theory, that I've been mulling over for a long time.
What if it's all Love? The Whole Thing. Heaven and Hell and everything in between. What if it's all Love, and what if all this Love is fire?
Most images of Hell are associated with fire. Purgatorial language often refers to a cleansing fire. The Bible speaks of the refiner's fire. What can this fire be but Love? You could say it is wrath, but isn't anger or wrath simply an action born from a Perfect Love trying to make things right?
What if Heaven is fire, too? What if it's all Love, and our experience of Heaven or Hell or purgation is dependent on our response to Love?
I see it in life. I see how people respond to love. I have watched, often in tears, as friends respond angrily, even violently, to acts of Love. Call it pride or sin nature, but their response to an act of Love is painful and isolating. If they could have let go of self for just a moment, they could have been embraced and changed by Love. Instead, they are only burned by it.
C.S. Lewis sees Hell as isolation, a complete cutting off of relationship. In The Great Divorce (which you should take a couple hours and read as soon as you finish this entry), Hell is shown as an ever-expanding neighbourhood, with each house becoming increasingly distant from the next until your next door neigbour is an infinity of miles away. I've seen this happen here on earth. In response to Love, a person becomes distant, desperately holding on to what they are comfortable with and rejecting right relationship. Certainly, they've been covered in Love, but only feel it as though burning coals were dumped on their head.
For one who can't stand this Love, who wants no part of it, what could be more Hell than to know there's nothing you can do to keep this Love from loving you? His Love knows no bounds.
Others respond to this same Love and embrace it, no matter how much it burns. They are willing to go through the pain Love can cause, if it means that they can be True. When I went through a time when I needed my friends to see things more clearly than I was seeing them, my friends honesty in Love burned. By God's grace, I ultimately chose to let it burn. In the end, I was changed. I let go of the things in my heart that were causing the pain. Like gold encrusted in garbage, only the bad stuff burns. As long as I'm alive, this process will continue.
Then there's Heaven. Isn't it fire, too? We tend to think of Heaven, even those of us who think we're 'enlightened', as a geographical place, but isn't it simply God's Love? What could be more heavenly than to be wrapped completely in the Love of God? Certainly, this Love is fire. Gold is not burned by fire. It welcomes fire. For one purified by this Love, it is Heaven itself, for whatever is pure has no need to fear the flame.