I finished my project of preparing all seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia for teaching this fall and winter at my church. Each one was a joy to develop, but I looked forward the most to doing the final book in the series, The Last Battle. When I teach my basic C. S. Lewis course at the university, this is the one Narnia book I have students read. Most are already familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and all the others, excellent in their own right (and everyone has a favorite among them), cannot do what The Last Battle does—bring a conclusion to the series.
The final chapters contain some of the most moving and poignant sentences Lewis has ever written. As the friends of Narnia enter into the New Narnia—which we know of as Heaven—the joy, amazement, and incredible experience of it all is overwhelming to those of us who try to imagine what life will be like when we see the New Heaven and the New Earth as described in the Scriptures.
First, how symbolic of Lewis to use a stable as the main setting of the book. The enemies of Aslan use the stable as a place of fear: what will one find as one goes through that stable door? The evil people find a demon named Tash, but the faithful followers of Aslan find instead the New Narnia. This leads Lewis to put into the mouth of Lucy, who is obviously one of his favorite characters, some profound words:
Lewis also includes a sad kind of humor in the persons of dwarfs who were thrown through the stable door but who are so spiritually blind they cannot see where they are. They reject the beauty because their minds are dead set against believing. Thus this terrible, but accurate, statement from Aslan that will apply to those who choose the broad road that leads to destruction:
Yet those who have been faithful can see all that has been prepared for them. Digory, who was present at Narnia’s creation, offers this insight:
When Jewel the Unicorn finally realizes where he is, he can barely contain himself, declaring, “I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”
Every time I read that, I think of what eternity holds and that I will probably have the same emotion when I enter into Aslan’s Country—the reality will finally overcome the shadowlands. Throughout the final chapters, Lewis has his characters repeat the phrase, “Further up and further in!” How true that is; there is no end to the depths of God. I believe we will be learning of Him and knowing Him better throughout all eternity.
Lewis, although a devoted scholar, always had a degree of antipathy to schooling (at least the types he had been subjected to), so at the end of the book, he frames what is happening through the concept of finally getting out of school:
The final words in The Last Battle can hardly be improved upon:
All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
What a glorious series Lewis created. There’s no mystery as to why these books continue to sell in the millions. I am eager to share them with my class.