INTO THE HEART OF THE CONSUMING FIRE: An Excerpt From Michael Phillips' Hell and Beyond

An Excerpt From Hell and Beyond  

Michael Phillips

The moment my feet left solid ground, rather than experiencing terror at my fall, a great warmth enveloped me, as if I were floating through a cloud of sunshine. The warmth grew. I knew that the fire had begun to burn. It singed my hands and feet and fingers. My extremities were aflame, but my flesh was not blackened. 
    Slowly, the heat mounted in intensity...hotter and hotter until the excruciation was of one being burned alive over every inch with pain unendurable. Suspended in live fire, I had no voice to cry or scream. Mouth and tongue and throat were blistered from the penetrating flame. Arms, fingers, and legs glowed red as hot iron. The fire surged through my chest, lungs, heart, stomach, and bowels. It probed and examined, wriggling flame-worms of horrific heat. I had become the tree on the mountain, caught in the midst of a wild, turbulent, hounding fire. I heard howls of torment. Whether it was my own voice or whether others were nearby, I cannot say.
    I continued to fall through tumultuous scorching flames at the speed of light...falling...falling...deeper and deeper into the abyss, further down and further in…into the depths of my own Self, into the fires of cleansing. 
    From somewhere a mighty voice resounded, or were they words made alive in my brain? Somehow I knew that it was the great prophet Malachi of old calling over the centuries, across the millennia, calling to all who had chosen it what the fire meant, and why it had to be:
    Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me. For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. And he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord. For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogance and all the evildoing will be stubble. The day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.
    I fell and I burned and the flames probed my soul for what seemed to be a thousand years. How long and how far I fell, who can say? It was an aion of cleansing. The fire burned as if it must eradicate everything within me and ultimately destroy me. Yet I was not destroyed, and my awareness of being remained.  
    Below a great sound began to echo, a rhythmic pounding and throbbing. With every pulse, the fire rushed deeper, shot as pure blasts of white energy into my depths...Each new throb sent searing fingers of flame probing into me with renewed force.
    Whatever the source of the pulsing echo, it came from the infinite below, from the depths into which no eye could see...The torrid vibrations grew deafening. I knew that I was entering the very Source of the fire, the Heart of the volcano, the Eye of the fiery tempest, descending into the beating core of the universe. I was being swallowed into the Consuming Fire.
    And I was gathered into it. The sensation of falling ceased. I was inundated in pure Light. The throbbing continued...I felt its reverberations in rhythm to my own heart. The tumult silenced. Light and the energy of the great Pulse absorbed me into itself.
    I floated through the silence, a silence of utter bliss, for I was at the Center of the Fire.
    Words—mighty echoes of truth heard not by my ears but vibrating in my inner parts as giant invisible harp strings tuned to the measure of my being—resounded over and above and through me. A great Voice proclaimed the truth of the ages. And as the Voice spoke, time was turned inside out, and I knew that I was at the Center of creation itself.
    All around me was darkness. 
    I floated in the midst of empty nothingness, formless and void...The pulsating Heart was inside me because I was inside it. Nothing existed but the live Heart that was the Origin of all things.
    Let there be light! thundered the silent Logos into my soul and into the soul of the universe.
    Whiteness exploded everywhere. Light consumed the darkness, and the darkness fled from the universe, for it could not withstand the power of the Light. And I was not just at the center of the Light in my imagination—my true being, my very essence was birthed in the moment of the mighty Let there be. For the Voice had not just created Light. He had created me...From the infinite beginnings, he had known me because he had fathered me out of his own Being. And he knew my name though I did not know it yet—my true name known only to him...
    Out of the midst of the whiteness came the figure of a Man. But he was more than a man, for he had always been and would always be, for he was the live beating Heart made visible to mortal eyes, and he was One with creation...
    I am the Alpha! resounded the great thunder of pure Light. I Am because I Am, and I will draw all creation to myself. I Am your Creator and your God and your Father, and you shall be my sons and daughters because you are my created children.
    I fell and bowed my face low, for I could not gaze upon him. 
    Awake, awake, you who sleep. Let the flame awake your soul that it not destroy you. I will refine you like silver and test you like gold. I will refine you and test you and purify you by the fire. Then you will call upon my name and I will answer. I will say, “They are my people,” and all the nations will rise as one and proclaim, “The Lord, our Creator and Father, is our God.” 
    At last, I was compelled to look up. Around me as far as the eye could see in every direction I beheld the vast, teeming humanity of creation, surging and marching through the millennia from antiquity to and poor, kind and cruel, masters driving their slaves before them, slaves lusting after their masters’ wealth, the intellectual and the ignorant, those who lived in squalor beside those who had enjoyed the opulence of luxury, rulers and peasants, kings and serfs.
    And I saw into their hearts, for I had been given eyes to probe the mind and soul of everyone who had ever lived. And I was overwhelmed by the goodness that lay in the heart of mankind. Yet I was crushed to despair by the cruelty and greed and ambition and selfishness that lay deep alongside the goodness, for it spoiled the goodness and turned brother against brother and mother against daughter and son against father...
    Still the teeming nations of humanity surged through the aions, forward, ever forward, rising on the progress of the past ever to new heights. Yet with its progress the mighty throng of humanity grew unseeing and unhearing, for the Voice that was above all and within all had grown silent. They could no longer hear its still small whispers reminding them from whence they had come and whence originated their life. None knew their names, or the name of the I Am, for their sin had hardened their hearts and dulled their understanding...
    I turned away, and did not know if the throng I had seen was bound in the same direction. I only knew that I must continue and not look back. And the fire returned upon me.
    I was walking now, my whole being glowing red...I was moving alongside a great river, glowing red like everything around me, red with liquid fire. The river flowed into a red flaming lake of limitless expanse...
    I gazed into the distance whence came the river at my feet. Worlds away, as if I were again peering backward to time’s beginnings, rose the blinding red of a great Heart of Fire, a mighty Sun hanging above the horizon and shooting out flames of light in all directions. It was a live Heart, pulsating with thunderous silent echo. 
    Across the Heart were emblazoned the letters A-B-B-A. From it gushed a torrent of blood, spewing from the mortal wound of an invisible sword. But the piercing did not kill the Abba-Heart. In the throbbing agony of its sacrifice of itself, its own Life was resurrected with yet greater power. For the Heart beat with the Life that enlightens every man...The torrent of life-giving blood rushed forth from the Wound of Life and fueled the river of fire, and it flowed across the aions toward me and tumbled into the lake beside me.
    And I knew I was beholding the great life-birthing Heart of Father and Son, whose love together had created the world, and whose sacrifice together was redeeming it. They were redeeming me and giving me power to join my own sacrifice with theirs, that I might be one with them as they were one.
    Many were around me, a vast swarm of men and women. Some were throwing themselves into the river as I had plunged into the abyss above, to be cleansed by sacrifice and purified by fire. Others were climbing up and out of the lake to join those alongside the river. On their faces was no torment but expressions of wonder. Their bodies were of gold and the lake of fire could not touch them. And thousands were plunging into the lake and rising up out of it. 
    Voices came from somewhere. It was not the One Voice, but the voices of a throng of heavenly hosts. And they were chanting in unison: And the dead were judged. Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
    Then from above came the sound as of a mighty rushing wind. A great meteor, huge as a moon, engulfed in fierce flames, came hurling out of the sky and plummeted with a violent explosion into the lake of fire and disappeared into its depths.
    Again spoke the Voice of the One, the Voice of the Light and of the Logos, ominous and mighty with command and judgment. And the Word declared: Hell below is stirred up to meet you when you come. Your greatness is brought down to your own grave. How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! In your heart you said, “I will ascend to heaven. I will make myself like the most High.” But you shall be brought down to hell, into the depths of the Pit.
    Still the multitude walked beside the river of fire and blood. From each one, ashes of white floated up and disappeared, dead reminders of what had been burned out of them. Again I felt the fingers of fire, the probing worms of revelation, searching my innermost places. It burned deeper, ever deeper into my being, separating the bone from the marrow, separating the essential me from the sin at my core.
    I must death my sin forever. I must relinquish all that I had held dear, my very self. I could not die, I must become, that I might be…and live.  
    I felt many things giving way inside me, releasing, emptying me of all but the me that had been birthed in the Light. With each release I felt a stab as from a white-hot knife plunging into my chest and then pulled from my depths. A thousand releasings were accompanied each by a stab of agony... 
    Still the fire probed. Deeper and deeper death reached inside me, that life eternal might emerge...Rain began to fall. Huge drops popped and sizzled as water met fire landing on the river and those who were glowing red. Yet the rain and the fire were one and came from the same Source.
    Layer after layer of the hiddenmost pestilence of my sin floated away, burned off as from an onion of Self...And I knew that God’s heart felt every pain with me. He loved me as the Father who had birthed me in the Light of Creation. I was his son! How could he not suffer with me? Again around me came the echo of rhythmic pulsating over all and in all and through all. Everywhere was inside the Great Heart.
    And I knew that the falling rains were his own tears. He was suffering with his world as its sin was eradicated from the universe.
    I listened. Far away—as in the heart of a silence too full for sound, I heard the clear jubilant notes as of the harps of many angels.
    And then, in the midst of the fire and the rain and the music, I heard the Scotsman singing the eternal song of creation. The words that filled my being were his words, spoken long ago, yet timeless and spoken anew to every generation: Hark the herald of the Sun of Righteousness, rising with healing in its wings, the auroral wind, softly trumpeting an Approach!...
    The latter rains that fell now splashed upon my face with unspeakable comfort, for they were the refreshing rains of the dawn of a new spring. And the agony of the fire turned to comfort...
    I was aware of the joy of existence and knew that I was blessed—more blessed than I deserved or could imagine. The gentle rain of God’s tears soothed every care, dissolved every anguish, comforted every pain. All sorrow was swallowed up in the life. I was at peace.
    The throbbing of the great Heart entered my soul, for I was one with it. It vibrated in resonance with the strings of my own heart, for at last I had come home, into the Father’s heart, the heart of him who had created me to be his son.