This book is delightfully insightful in it is content. Lewis is the narrator of his story, which begins in Hell, a dreary town full of empty streets. Lewis uses a dream as the vehicle to carry his ideas. Lewis boards a bus for Heaven with other ghosts from the town. It is not until the last chapter of the book that the reader finds out that Lewis is actually having a dream.
Lewis finds himself in a dark and dreary place, where the houses are gray and empty, a dismal rain never stops, and time is eternally stuck in the bleak period just before sunset. Walking through this abominable town, he happens to find a bus stop, which takes inhabitants out of this gloomy place and into a much brighter happier world. Slightly bewildered, Lewis boards the bus and begins a journey out of a city named Hell and into another city called Heaven. When he arrives at his destination, Lewis discovers that Hell's inhabitants do not enjoy the beauty of this new land. In heaven, these people become ghosts because they are not strong enough to endure the substantive things of this world. The grass and water cut through their feet and even the tiniest object is to heavy for the ghosts to pick up.
The rain would penetrate them like bullets would from a machine gun. The concept of Heaven being incredibly large and Hell being considerably small, smaller than a grain of sand is quite a comparison. The ghosts refused any help from the residents of heaven. One of the major mistakes the ghosts made was trying to conquer their struggles with their own powers. Time and again, Lewis sees the ghosts fail, but they still will not let go of what is holding them back. While Lewis is walking he meets George MacDonald who aids him in his journey through heaven.
MacDonald tells Lewis that this journey is a dream, which will make clear to him that souls have a choice between Heaven and Hell and what that choice is. Lewis, at first, is unable to understand why the lost souls must be damned. However, he is finally persuaded that Hell is the only merciful solution for the lost souls. Passing by many sad spectacles of people from Hell, Lewis begins to understand, with the help of MacDonald, that these people must throw away everything and commit their lives to Christ. Whether a warning to or a reflection on society, the book stimulates thought and forces the reader to look inward at his or her own weaknesses.
Once Christians find out their own weaknesses, we will be able to minister to those who have similar weaknesses. The reader is not merely reading about fictional events occurring with made up characters in some unrealistic world, but he or she is living out a story whose outcome will be determined by the individual. Even now, Lewis has us believing that we are suspended between Heaven and Hell and being pulled in both directions. By the end of the book we cannot help but wonder after an excruciating self-analysis where our bus is headed and where it will eventually end up. Will we ever find out we have employed the assistance of the divine tour guide to determine our fates or that we have insisted on holding the wheel alone only to become lost in a vast forbidding land of eternal twilight? It's interesting that he considers it possible to be saved even after death. My impression was that purgatory was only for those who were already saved.
I wasn't convinced that most people are so wedded to their sins that they would cling to them even with heaven in front of them as a real and tangible thing. He didn't make the difficulty of such a choice plausible. Lewis's trengths in this book are his use of illustrative fiction to put his point across. He catches the imagination and addresses many different kinds of people's life styles. We can all think of people we know just like these phantoms. The same opinions in their lives are made a reality.
They are self-righteous people who deny the grace of God. His use of contrast is striking in his argument, particularly when in the beginning of the book we see Hell as a great expanse. It seems so large and then we realize how very small the people must really be who are in Hell. His argument is absolute genius. I honestly don't find any weaknesses in Lewis' argument. I would have serious problems with his argument if this had not been a dream due to the discussion of choice after death and of purgatory.
There was only one thing I was really disturbed by and that was the choice of words he used by some of his characters. Since this is a dream and an illustrative fiction I have no such problems. This book can very well be used as a ministry tool to minister to unbelievers. Many unbelievers struggle with reading the Bible.
Some think it is a fairy tale! Christians can use this book to get inside the minds of those they desire to reach. This will be helpful in having a meaningful discussion of the truth with them. When we understand others' positions it does two things. It lets them know we have heard them and it helps us to see how to best answer their objections. The most loving thing Christians can do is present the gospel in hopes of bringing others to salvation.
The angels of heaven rejoice greatly when anyone passes from judgment into salvation (Luke 15: 10). Should not Christians rejoice too? Should not Christians weep over the lost? Should not we ask the Lord of the field to send laborers into His harvest (Luke 10: 2)? Certainly! Lewis gives the reader a vivid account of how Heaven and Hell look like and what will happen once souls get there. I believe Lewis, through this book, was trying to show that people have a choice in whether or not they go to Heaven or Hell. People don't choose Hell with a full understanding of what they are doing. They don't have a clear picture of the eternal happiness they will miss or the everlasting separation and darkness they will endure.
According to the Bible, Hell is a place of choice. As a result, the Bible repeatedly appeals to its readers to choose the way of life rather than the path of death and judgment. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Mark 8: 36, 37)? So, what must one do in order to get to heaven? Jesus says in order to go to Heaven you must be born again (John 3: 7). Lewis never comes out directly and tells them you must be saved. He does it in a way that leaves the reader thinking the only way is through Jesus Christ.