The fires of Hell are the fires of God to those who never made the journey that results in becoming on fire. When God’s full glory is revealed, if we are not yet on fire, it will be too late and we will experience God’s fire as something foreign, fearsome, and altogether “other”.
We are like candles. But these candles have an inner, hidden unlit core that is like a crystal. When lit, it will be an unconsumed ember. But it can only be lit gently, as the candle finishes burning off the last of its wax. The wick continues down into the crystal-ember. When the fires come at the end, that fire is too intense and the wick is destroyed in an instant and not able to get the ember going. And so, such a one remains a perfect crystal that never takes part in the fire it was made for.
The problem is to discover that the wax of the candle is not our true selves. We derive no benefit in preserving our wax. It will be melted away in an instant at the end, if it is not already lit. If it’s lit but not yet completely burned away, we will be given a chance to burn it down to the crystal. This is Purgatory. This is God’s mercy giving us a chance to finish what has started. We will gain admittance once we are ready, once the crystal is finally lit. If we were exposed to God’s fire before we were ready, that would prevent the crystal from being lit, as the wax and wick would burn away too soon. Making us wait to be ready, while requiring patience on our part, is pure mercy on God’s part.
So in this life on earth, we need to be lit and stay lit. This corresponds to being in the state of grace, having a share of God’s life within us. Unlike the wax which goes away, and is meant to go away, we are to give away the flame. But of course you lose nothing by giving away your flame: your flame is not halved, or even diminished at all.
Now, if you discover how to burn down your wax more quickly, you may not only use up all of it, but your crystal will begin the process of becoming an ember, which means that when the fire of God comes, you are ready to safely be in its presence and it is experienced as friendly, not hostile. How is this discovered and done? By increasingly trusting in God’s mercy now, instead of waiting for its effects until Purgatory.
But for those who were never lit or not lit when the fire came, their crystal will be engulfed in the flame, but neither lit nor destroyed. Thus they never experience the fire as friendly because, not having been lit, and not getting to the ember state, they remain uncomprehending of the friendliness of the fire. And they will live forever in dread of that which they perceive as a never-receding threat, which has already consumed the wax they falsely felt was valuable, was their true self, which they had always tried to preserve. This is not unlike the servant who fearfully hid his one and only talent. We behave the same way when we do not trust in God’s mercy.