There’s one Idea I’ve had frequently that won’t leave me alone. I’ve wanted to write a short story around it, but could never get it to work really. It’s almost too good of an idea to consign to a short story alone. Somehow it seems like that would make it less of an Idea.
Earth is a testing ground, a place of training and trials. When our school days are over and our destiny is manifest we go to our appropriate reward, be that Eternal Bliss or Eternal Suffering. But What If the testing doesn’t end there? What If…
A young hero dies a tragic and brilliantly sacrificial death, and is taken into the bosom of Abraham to be comforted like Lazarus of old. He is happy, incredibly happy. Paradise is beautiful, intoxicating, all he’d ever dreamed it would be. Across a wide and indivisible gulf, however, he can see the boiling lake of fire, and he can hear the screams of people he once knew, people he once loved. In the garden, of course, it is easy to forget them, but if we walks a little farther, to the very edge of the brink there is no escape from their piteous cries. There is still suffering in paradise.
Well, of course our hero (being a hero) can’t leave well enough alone. He can’t understand why he is allowed such happiness while others suffer. (Probably most theological views will start to recognize something as wrong here.) Here’s where the Idea gets sketchy. Perhaps the Hero discovers that he can save those unfortunates from Hell, but that he must take their place. I think in my story he couldn’t live with the injustice of it, and throws himself in. Either way, the Hero chooses Hell over Heaven. And what do you think happens?
Purgatory is the idea that we all must pay for our past sins, and suffer a time of sorrow and tribulation to be made worthy for heaven. It is the concept that we must somehow prove ourselves worthy of the ultimate reward. It is not a test, because the outcome is known already; every soul will eventually get to Heaven.
Would you have the courage to give up heaven to save the damned? Could you do what Christ did and lay down your life in exchange? If you had the opportunity to exchange your soul for another, would you do it? What If there was one last test?
DISCLAIMER: I am not proposing the theological possibility of such a thing, only speculating on the drama and soul searching it sets up if you consider it hypothetically.