Category Archives: The Pilgrim’s Progress

News About Christian and His Reward

Christian in the Higher Regions

“Well, sir,” I said, “then I perceive you to be a well-meaning man, and so one that takes pleasure to hear and tell of that which is good: pray did you never hear what happened to a man some time ago in this town (whose name was Christian), that went on pilgrimage up towards the higher regions?”

Sagacity: Hear of him! aye, and I also heard of the molestations, troubles, wars, captivities, cries, groans, frights, and fears, that he met with and had in his journey. Besides, I must tell you, all our country rings of him; there are but few houses that have heard of him and his doings, that have sought after and got the records of his pilgrimage. Yea, I think I may say, that his hazardous journey has got a many well-wishers to his ways; for though when he was here he was fool in every man’s mouth, yet now he is gone he is highly commended of all: for ’tis said he lives bravely where he is; yea, many of them that are resolved never to run his hazards, yet have their mouths water at his gains.

“They may,” I said, “well think, if they think anything that is true, that he lives well where he is; for he now lives at and in the fountain of life, and has what he has without labour and sorrow, for there is no grief mixed therewith. But, pray, what talk have the people about him?”

Sagacity: Talk! the people talk strangely about him. Some say that he now walks in white; that he has a chain of gold about his neck; and that he has a crown of gold beset with pearls upon his head: others say that the Shining Ones that sometimes showed themselves to him in his journey are become his companions; and that he is as familiar with them in the place where he is, as here one neighbor is with another.

Besides, ’tis confidently affirmed concerning him, that the King of the place where he is has bestowed upon him already a very rich and pleasant dwelling at court; and that he every day eats and drinks, and walks and talk with him, and receives of the smiles and favors of him that is Judge of all there.

Moreover, it is expected of some, that his Prince, the Lord of that country, will shortly come into these parts, and will know the reason, if they can give any, why his neighbors set so little by him, and had him so much in derision, when they perceived that he would be a pilgrim. For they say, that now he is so in the affections of his Prince, and that his Sovereign is so much concerned with the indignities that were cast upon Christian when he became a pilgrim, that he will look upon all as if done unto himself; and no marvel, for ’twas for the love that he had to his Prince that he ventured as he did.

“I dare say,” I said. “I am glad of it; I am glad for the poor man’s sake. For that now he has rest from his labor; and for that he now reaps the benefit of his tears with joy; and for that he has got beyond the gunshot of his enemies, and is out of the reach of them that hate him.” 

I also am glad for that a rumor of these things is noised abroad in this country. Who can tell but that it may work some good effect on some that are left behind! 

Notes and Commentary

Bunyan continues his conversation with Mr. Sagacity by asking if he has heard what happened to Christian. Christian was a pilgrim who set out from the City of Destruction to journey to the Celestial City “some time ago” and it is his story that comprises Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan hints at the popularity of Part 1 as Mr. Sagacity says of Christian, “all our country rings of him; there are but few houses that have heard of him and his doings, that have sought after and got the records of his pilgrimage.”

News of Christian’s death has spread quickly. When Christian was alive, he was mocked and scorned by many. The citizens of the City of Destruction thought him to be a fool. But now that he has gone on to his reward, “he is highly commended of all.” Even his worst critics and foes speak more kindly of him. The reality of death has stirred the town with somber thoughts: some with hope and longing, others with fear and dread.

Bunyan highlights three important lessons we can learn when confronted with the reality of death.

Continue reading notes and commentary.

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2021 Ken Puls

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from 
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Main Page

Met by Mr. Sagacity

Bunyan and Mr. Sagacity

And as I was in my dream, behold, an aged gentleman came by where I lay; and because he was to go some part of the way that I was traveling, methought I got up and went with him. So as we walked, and as travelers usually do, we fell into discourse; and our talk happened to be about Christian and his travels, for thus I began with the old man:

“Sir,” said I, “what town is that there below, that lies on the left hand of our way?”

Sagacity: Then said Mr. Sagacity—for that was his name: “It is the city of Destruction; a populous place, but possessed with a very ill conditioned and idle sort of people.”

“I thought that was that city,” I said; “I went once myself through that town, and therefore know that this report you give of it is true.”

Sagacity: Too true; I wish I could speak truth in speaking better of them that dwell therein.

Notes and Commentary

As Bunyan begins to dream, he meets a fellow traveler named Mr. Sagacity. Since they are traveling the same direction, Bunyan walks with him and engages him in conversation. Their “talk happened to be about Christian and his travels.”

Mr. Sagacity represents the wisdom we need to walk through this world. Someone who is sagacious has clarity of thought, soundness of mind, and acute perception. A sage (from the Greek sophos) is known and revered for being wise. Unlike Worldly Wiseman, who offered Christian ungodly counsel in Part 1, Mr. Sagacity brings true wisdom that comes from God.

Continue reading Notes and Commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2021 Ken Puls

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from 
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Main Page

As I Slept I Dreamed Again

As I Slept I Dreamed Again

COURTEOUS companions, some time since, to tell you my dream that I had of Christian the pilgrim, and of his dangerous journey towards the Celestial Country, was pleasant to me, and profitable to you. I told you then also what I saw concerning his wife and children, and how unwilling they were to go with him on pilgrimage: insomuch that he was forced to go on his progress without them; for he durst not run the danger of that destruction which he feared would come by staying with them in the city of Destruction: wherefore, as I then showed you, he left them and departed.

Now it hath so happened, through the multiplicity of business, that I have been much hindered and kept back from my wonted travels into those parts whence he went, and so could not till now obtain an opportunity to make further inquiry after whom he left behind, that I might give you an account of them. But having had some concerns that way of late, I went down again thitherward. Now, having taken up my lodgings in a wood about a mile off the place, as I slept I dreamed again.

Notes and Commentary

John Bunyan begins Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress in a similar way to Part 1. He tells his story “in the similitude of a dream.” As the story opens we learn that it has been “some time since” Bunyan related his first dream “of Christian the pilgrim and of his dangerous journey toward the Celestial Country.” 

Bunyan began writing Part 1 while he was imprisoned for his faith. When laws were enacted in his day by the king of England that hindered the preaching of the gospel, Bunyan continued to preach and teach. He was jailed in 1660 for being a non-conformist and spent the next 12 years in prison. While he was in prison, he continued serving the church through his writing. He wrote an autobiography called Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, where he shared his own story of how God had rescued him from his sin and eventually called him to gospel ministry. He also began shaping his experience into an allegory that would later develop into The Pilgrim’s Progress.

When Bunyan was released in 1672, he set his writing aside while he resumed his pastoral ministry to his church. But in God’s providence, his freedom was short-lived. He was imprisoned again in 1675 in a prison known in his town of Bedford as the Den where he completed The Pilgrim’s Progress (Part 1). The allegory was published soon after his second release in 1678.

Following Bunyan’s second release, he returned to his home in the village of Elstow in Bedfordshire, “about a mile off” (south of) Bedford and the jail where he had been imprisoned. It was here, in his “lodgings in a wood” where he wrote “The Second Part.” Part 2 tells the story of Christian’s wife, Christiana, and their children, as they make their way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. It was published in 1684, “some time since” (about six years after) he published Part 1. Bunyan died in 1688 and never wrote a Part 3.

So why did Bunyan write a sequel? 

Some of the reasons are the same reasons that compel authors in our day to write a sequel.

1. Bunyan was a popular preacher and author. 

During the years he was first imprisoned (1660–1672), he published numerous pamphlets and five books, including Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He became very well known, especially in his willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ.

When The Pilgrims Progress was published in 1678, it was instantly popular. A second edition was published the same year. A third edition followed in 1679 and two more in 1680. At the time of Bunyan’s death the book has gone through 13 editions, selling over 100,000 copies. It became the most widely read book in the English language apart from the Bible. It and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs could be found in most homes. Bunyan went on to write at least 60 books.

2. Many were counterfeiting Bunyan’s work and writing their own continuations.

Bunyan was a popular author and so there was a demand for more. Some tried to profit from Bunyan’s success and write their own versions and sequels to The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan refers to these in his introductory poem to Part 2:

“‘Tis true, some have, of late, to counterfeit
My Pilgrim, to their own my title set;
Yea, others half my name, and title too,
Have stitched to their books, to make them do.”

“But yet they, by their features, do declare
Themselves not mine to be, whose’er they are.
If such thou meet’st with, then thine only way
Before them all, is, to say out thy say”

These counterfeit works proved to be inferior, both in their prose and theology. Bunyan desired to set the record straight by writing his own sequel.

3. Bunyan had more that he wanted to say.

His first idea for a sequel was published in 1680. It was called: The Life and Death of Mr. Badman; Presented to the World in a Familiar Dialogue Between Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive. It was written as a companion book to The Pilgrim’s Progress to show the end of those who remained in their sin at death.

The book was good, but it was never received as “the sequel.” It went a different direction and left some important questions unanswered. The questions that Bunyan’s readers wanted him to address were: What happened to Christian’s family? What about his wife and his four sons who stayed behind in the City of Destruction? Did they perish? Did they escape! Tell us more!

As Bunyan gained more readers and critics, their unanswered questions and criticisms compelled him to write the real sequel to the story. For Part 2 he had three main goals in mind as a writer and pastor.

1. Emphasize the importance of the family and bringing the gospel to our children. Part 1 focused more on the experience of the individual soul in salvation and sanctification.

2. Emphasize the importance of the church and how the family serves in and benefits from the ministry of a local church. Bunyan highlighted the significance of the church in Part 1 with Palace Beautiful (for the new believer) and the Delectable Mountains (for the more mature believer). In Part 2 he focuses on the journeying together in the fellowship of the church.

3. Emphasize more the joys and comforts of gospel. Some of Bunyan’s critics thought he focused too much on the dangers and warnings of Christian’s “dangerous journey” in Part 1. They argued that it was too dark and too filled with peril. In Part 2 Bunyan highlights more of the help and encouragement God gives us on the journey, especially as we journey together and benefit from the ministry of the church.

I invite you to read through Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress with me as I offer my thoughts and commentary along the way. If you enjoyed Part 1, you will find Part 2 just as rich and profitable. These posts will seek to draw out a small portion of Bunyan’s insights and hopefully encourage you to search after more.

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.
Notes and Commentary for Part 2 ©2014, 2021 Ken Puls

You can follow the journey of Christiana and her children by following my blog. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter, or join my Pilgrim’s Progress reading group on MeWe.

You can read earlier posts from The Pilgrim’s Progress by searching the Table of Contents

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Christiana and family begin their journey

“Wherein is set forth the manner of the setting out of Christian’s wife and children, and safe arrival at the desired country.”

Coming February 2021

Those who know me well and those who follow my blog know that my favorite book apart from the Bible is The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I have read and taught Bunyan’s allegory many times. On May 21, 2013 I began publishing my commentary online: A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. The commentary for Part 1 was completed on July 8, 2019. I’m grateful for all who have used and benefited from my online notes, especially those who have taken time to send comments and encouragements. Since completing Part 1, many have asked about continuing the commentary with Part 2. 

I’m pleased to announce that beginning in February 2021, I will be posting my notes for Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress on my website.

Please join me this coming year in following the story of Christian’s wife, Christiana, and their children, as they make their way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Follow my blog (or “Ken Puls Music” on Facebook) to keep up with their journey.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Mountain Pathway

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Pressing on We Journey

Christ our greatest treasure,
He our highest aim!
Christ our deepest comfort,
Him we now acclaim!
By His death, He saved us,
By His life, we live.
To the King of glory,
All our lives we give .

Pressing on, we journey,
Christ we now confess,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Rescued from destruction,
Told to seek the light;
Pulled up from the mire,
Fitted for the fight.
Christ, in every instance
Guides us in the Way,
Graciously providing
Mercies every day.

Pressing on, we journey,
Pilgrims we progress,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Fret not for tomorrow,
Fear not past regrets.
He heals every sorrow,
Sure the course He sets.
All these things are added,
What to eat and wear;
All our needs provided,
By His loving care.

Pressing on, we journey,
Joys we now possess,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

We long for that day when
We’ll see face to face
Christ, the King of Glory,
Full of truth and grace.
But until that moment,
Finally He descends,
We will ever seek Him,
Faithful to the end.

Pressing on, we journey,
Hope we now express,
Seeking first His kingdom
And His righteousness.

Words ©2017 Kenneth A Puls

This hymn, from the album The Lord is My Delight, is based on Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:33 to seek “first His kingdom and His righteousness” and on John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Check out the lyric video on youtube:

And download the music from band camp:

Click here to download lyrics and free sheet music, including an arrangement of the hymn tune WYE VALLEY for Classical Guitar.

Read A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (including notes and commentary on Bunyan’s allegory by Ken Puls)

Behold It Was a Dream

Conclusion to Part 1 of the Pilgrim’s Progress

So I awoke, and behold it was a dream.

Now, Reader, I have told my dream to thee;
See if thou canst interpret it to me,
Or to thyself, or neighbor; but take heed
Of misinterpreting; for that, instead
Of doing good, will but thyself abuse:
By misinterpreting, evil ensues.

Take heed, also, that thou be not extreme,
In playing with the outside of my dream:
Nor let my figure or similitude
Put thee into a laughter or a feud.
Leave this for boys and fools; but as for thee,
Do thou the substance of my matter see.

Put by the curtains, look within my veil,
Turn up my metaphors, and do not fail,
There, if thou seekest them, such things to find,
As will be helpful to an honest mind.

What of my dross thou findest there, be bold
To throw away, but yet preserve the gold;
What if my gold be wrapped up in ore?
None throws away the apple for the core.
But if thou shalt cast all away as vain,
I know not but ’twill make me dream again.

Behold it was a dream

Bunyan opened The Pilgrim’s Progress by describing his book as a dream: “As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.” He closes his story by saying: “So I awoke, and behold it was a dream.”

Bunyan wrote his masterful work as an allegory. As we have seen, in Bunyan’s dream all the characters and events have meaning. Some are easy to interpret; others take more thought and consideration. Bunyan concludes The Pilgrim’s Progress with a poem inviting his readers to “put by the curtains, look within my veil” and challenging them to use discernment. He cautions against “playing with the outside of my dream” by pressing his analogies too far or reading too much into his plot lines. And he warns of regarding it too lightly—thinking of it simply as an entertainment. His story is endearing and enjoyable, but his substance is weighty. He speaks of matters of eternal consequence and he wants he readers to sense the gravity of his message.

Bunyan understands the challenge of writing about such glorious themes and he readily owns his limitations as an author. He encourages his readers to cast away any dross they find, “but yet preserve the gold.”

Many novels and stories can be compared to a change purse. They have only a little value, and with one or two readings, they are emptied out. But great books are like deep mines. Each time you return and put forth more effort to read and understand them, they yield more riches. The Pilgrim’s Progress is such a treasure. It is indeed filled with much gold. Those who accept Bunyan’s challenge to read and interpret his book will find their efforts richly rewarded. It should be read over and over. As you read the book at different stages in your own journey, you will gain more insight and more readily understand different characters and places.

God has used Bunyan’s writings in amazing ways. In 1660 he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel in a non-conformist church. This turn of events could have discouraged him and deterred his ministry. But Bunyan was determined to continue serving the church. He cared for his congregation and sought for ways to teach and encourage them. During the 12 years he was in prison (from 1660 to 1672) he published five books and numerous pamphlets, including his auto-biography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, where he shared his own story of how God had rescued him from his sin and eventually called him to gospel ministry. He also began shaping his experience into an allegory that would later develop into The Pilgrims Progress.

These books not only allowed Bunyan to continue serving his own congregation, they extended his ministry far beyond his town of Bedford. Through his writings, he became very well known, especially in his willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ.

When Bunyan was released in 1672, he set aside his writing to resume his responsibilities as pastor in his church. But in God’s providence, his freedom was short-lived. He was imprisoned again from 1675 to 1678 in a prison known in Bedford as the Den where he completed The Pilgrims Progress (Part 1).

The book was published the year Bunyan was released (1678). He had become a popular author and The Pilgrims Progress was an immediate success. A second edition was published the same year. A third edition followed in 1679, two more in 1680. At the time of Bunyan’s death the book has gone through 13 editions, over 100,000 copies. Over time it became the most widely read book in the English language apart from the Bible.

Bunyan hints at a sequel in his concluding poem, saying that he might “dream again.” His hint suggests that his sequel will focus on those who turn away from the gospel:

But if thou shalt cast all away as vain,
I know not but ’twill make me dream again.

His first idea for a sequel was published in 1680. It was called: The Life and Death of Mr. Badman; Presented to the World in a Familiar Dialogue Between Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive. It was written as a companion book to The Pilgrim’s Progress to show the end of those who remained in their sin at death.

The book was good, but it was never received as “the sequel.” It went a different direction and left some important questions unanswered. The questions that Bunyan’s readers wanted him to address were: What happened to Christian’s family? What about his wife and his four sons that stayed behind in the City of Destruction? Did they perish? Did they escape! Tell us more!

So Bunyan was compelled to write the real sequel to the story. The Pilgrim’s Progress (Part 2) was later published in 1684. It tells the story of Christiana and her children as they set out on their own journey to the Celestial City. Part 2 emphasizes the importance of the family and bringing the gospel to our children. And it emphasizes the church and how the family serves and benefits from the ministry of the church. If you enjoyed Part 1 of the story, Part 2 offers more of Bunyan’s gold.

Accept Bunyan’s challenge. Read and reread his books. But as you enjoy the endearing characters and following the exciting adventures, don’t miss the main message. Bunyan is pointing us to the Word of God that we might seek and find the Savior. Don’t miss Christ! He is the One who can take away our burden. He is the One who gives light on our path. And He is our joy at our journey’s end. He and He alone can save!

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The End of Ignorance

Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and saw Ignorance come up to the river side; but he soon got over, and that without half that difficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place, one Vain-hope, a ferryman, that with his boat helped him over; so he, as the other I saw, did ascend the hill, to come up to the gate, only he came alone; neither did any man meet him with the least encouragement. When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Whence came you, and what would you have? He answered, I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets. Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King; so he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, Have you none? But the man answered never a word. So they told the King, but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two Shining Ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the City, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.

Ignorance cast into the abyss

As Bunyan nears the end of his story, he turns from one of the most glorious scenes in the book (the final entrance of Christian and Hopeful into the Celestial City) to one of the most fearful. He turns to look back and he sees Ignorance preparing to cross the River.

Christian and Hopeful first met Ignorance when they were coming down from the Delectable Mountains. Ignorance professed himself to be a pilgrim and informed them that he was “going to the Celestial City.” He was from the nearby country of Conceit, a country that prided itself on its nearness to the Lord’s mountains. But Ignorance did not enter the Way via the Wicket Gate (this gate represents Christ as the only way of salvation). The Wicket Gate was too far away. Rather, he followed the tradition of his countrymen and entered by a little crooked lane that came into the Way (this lane represents religion that offers salvation by works). Nor did Ignorance have a certificate (evidence of faith in Christ sealed by the work of the Spirit) to present upon arrival at the Celestial City. He was trusting in his own understanding of God’s will and presuming upon religion and good works to save him. Christian rightly surmised that Ignorance would “find some difficulty” getting in at the Gate to the Celestial City. He was, as his name implied, ignorant of the true gospel of grace.  But when Christian attempted to warn him, Ignorance took offense. Ignorance sincerely believed himself to be a good person, so of course he was going to heaven.

Later in the story, Christian and Hopeful encountered him again and had a longer conversation to draw out his thinking. Ignorance further confirmed that his hope was resting not in Christ alone, but in his own “good motions.” Though he professed to be a pilgrim in the Way, he was not walking in the way of truth according to God’s Word. He was walking in the comfort of his own truth according to his heart.

Now as Ignorance comes to the River (approaches death), he is still self-assured. Unlike Christian, who struggled with doubts and fears and nearly sank, Ignorance is confident. He has no doubt in his mind that he will be let in at the gate. His passage across the river is easy. He rides over the waters with ease in a boat steered by Vain-hope.

For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
(Psalm 73:3–4)

When Ignorance arrives at the Gate, there is no one there to greet him. He knocks, still assuming that he will quickly gain entrance. When he is challenged at the Gate, Ignorance responds by saying: “I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets.” His words echo the response of those seeking to enter through the Narrow Gate:

And He [Jesus] said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’” (Luke 13:24–26).

When he is asked for his certificate, he is speechless, like the man in Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast who arrived without a wedding garment:

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless (Matthew 22:11–12).

Ignorance assumed that his devotion to religion was the same as nearness to God. He had lived well. He had been faithful to the church. He had been catechized and confirmed. He had taken holy communion, eaten the bread and drank of the cup in the presence of the Lord. Yet his eating and drinking proved to be in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27). Worthy recipients are “only those who repent of their sins, believe in Christ for salvation and love their fellow men” (A Catechism for Boys and Girls). Ignorance had ventured from Conceit only to trust in himself.

When the King was informed that Ignorance was at the Gate, the King “would not come down to see him.” The King did not know him and so turned him away.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23).

The same Shining Ones who welcomed Christian and Hopeful to the City are commanded to bind Ignorance and cast him out. This is the fearful end of those in Luke 13 who fail to enter through the narrow gate:

But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out (Luke 13:27–28).

The man who arrived without a wedding garment in the parable of the Wedding Feast faced a similar outcome:

Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).

Ignorance is carried away to the By-Way to Hell and Bunyan concludes: “Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.”

It is an eternal tragedy for someone to believe he or she is at the doorstep of heaven, and yet be at the brink of hell. Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress with the heart of a pastor. He longs to see everyone in his flock, and everyone who reads his book, arrive safely and be welcomed at the journey’s end. He doesn’t want us to assume all is well and miss Christ! And so, he ends with a sober warning.

Take heed to the end of Ignorance. Do not presume that your good works or devotion to Christ will save you. Do not presume that the sacraments of the church or your sincere intentions to do what is right will save you. Do not presume that your familiarity with religion or faithful service will save you. Christ and Christ alone can save! Turn to Him, trust Him, abide in Him.

Jesus said:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).

Only in Christ will you be welcomed and not cast out. We have His promise!

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37).

So come! Wait no longer! Come to Christ and live!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Lord, we pray for ev’ry Pilgrim,
Final entrance we’ll not miss;
For beside the Gates to Heaven
Lies a way to the Abyss.
Father, fit us for Your kingdom,
From the greatest to the least,
Clothe us in Your righteous garments
For the coming wedding feast.
(from “A Prayer for Pilgrims” by Ken Puls)

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Final Entrance

Now while they were thus drawing towards the gate, behold a company of the heavenly host came out to meet them; to whom it was said, by the other two Shining Ones, These are the men that have loved our Lord when they were in the world, and that have left all for his holy name; and he has sent us to fetch them, and we have brought them thus far on their desired journey, that they may go in and look their Redeemer in the face with joy. Then the heavenly host gave a great shout, saying, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” There came out also at this time to meet them, several of the King’s trumpeters, clothed in white and shining raiment, who, with melodious noises, and loud, made even the heavens to echo with their sound. These trumpeters saluted Christian and his fellow with ten thousand welcomes from the world; and this they did with shouting, and sound of trumpet.

This done, they compassed them round on every side; some went before, some behind, and some on the right hand, some on the left, (as it were to guard them through the upper regions), continually sounding as they went, with melodious noise, in notes on high: so that the very sight was, to them that could behold it, as if heaven itself was come down to meet them. Thus, therefore, they walked on together; and as they walked, ever and anon these trumpeters, even with joyful sound, would, by mixing their music with looks and gestures, still signify to Christian and his brother, how welcome they were into their company, and with what gladness they came to meet them; and now were these two men, as it were, in heaven, before they came at it, being swallowed up with the sight of angels, and with hearing of their melodious notes. Here also they had the city itself in view, and they thought they heard all the bells therein to ring, to welcome them thereto. But above all, the warm and joyful thoughts that they had about their own dwelling there, with such company, and that for ever and ever. Oh, by what tongue or pen can their glorious joy be expressed! And thus they came up to the gate.

Now, when they were come up to the gate, there was written over it in letters of gold, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

Then I saw in my dream that the Shining Men bid them call at the gate; the which, when they did, some looked from above over the gate, to wit, Enoch, Moses, and Elijah, &c., to whom it was said, These pilgrims are come from the City of Destruction, for the love that they bear to the King of this place; and then the Pilgrims gave in unto them each man his certificate, which they had received in the beginning; those, therefore, were carried in to the King, who, when he had read them, said, Where are the men? To whom it was answered, They are standing without the gate. The King then commanded to open the gate, “That the righteous nation,” said he, “which keeps the truth, may enter in.”

Now I saw in my dream that these two men went in at the gate: and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There was also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them—the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honor. Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, “Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.” I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying, “Blessing and Honor, and Glory, and Power, be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”

Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and, behold, the City shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold, and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises withal.

There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

Entrance into the Celestial City

As Christian and Hopeful enter into glory, they are greeted by “a company of the heavenly host.” In heaven we will join those in the faith who have gone before us. We will be united in the presence of Christ.

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

We will see the face of our Redeemer with joy and be made like Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2).

The pilgrims are identified as those who have loved the Lord while in this world, those who “have left all for his holy name,” echoing Peter’s words:

Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You” (Mark 10:28).

The City is filled with the sound of a great multitude praising God. The music is melodious, joyful, and welcoming. They hear the summons inviting them to celebration and feasting at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God” (Revelation 19:6–9).

At the Gate, Christian and Hopeful see saints of old looking down from above. Earlier in the allegory, at the House of the Interpreter, when Christian went into the room with the Stately Palace, he “saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold.” “Christian was greatly delighted” with the lesson from God’s Word, but at that time, the promise of eternal reward was a future hope believed by faith. Now his hope is realized. His journey is complete. Here to welcome him are saints who on earth walked by faith, but now “looked from above over the gate.”Bunyan lists a few of their names: Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), Moses (Matthew 17:3; Hebrews 11:23–29), and Elijah (Matthew 17:3; James 5:17–18).

The pilgrims see inscribed on the Gate the words of Scripture:

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city (Revelation 22:14).

In some translations this verse reads: “Blessed are those who wash their robes…” The blessing is for those who have come to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing, those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). The translation quoted by Bunyan ties faith to obedience. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Of those desiring to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus warned in Matthew 7—

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).

At the Gate each pilgrim presents his certificate for entrance into the city. The certificate is their evidence of faith in Christ Jesus sealed by the work of the Spirit. Only those who have rested their faith in the Lord Jesus and believed in His name can be saved.

… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

This certificate is the roll Christian received from the Shining One at the cross. He was told that “he should give it in at the Celestial Gate.” Bunyan explains that “this roll was the assurance of his life and acceptance at the desired haven. Though Christian lost his roll for a time when he slept at the Arbor on Hill Difficulty (his faith wavered and his assurance was shaken), the roll was recovered (God restored his hope and strengthened his faith to press on).

Later in the story Christian told Hopeful of another pilgrim who struggled on the journey. Little-faith, though he was robbed, did not lose his certificate to gain entrance to the Celestial City. Thieves stole his coin purse (his spiritual comfort and peace of mind in this life), but by God’s kind providence they missedtaking “that good thing”—his certificate. Though our faith be weak and small, we can be assured—God will not lose one for whom Christ has died.

When the Gates are opened by order of the King, Christian and Hopeful hear the opening words of the Song of Salvation in Isaiah 26:

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
That the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.
You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.
(Isaiah 26:1–4)

They are transfigured and “had raiment put on that shone like gold.”

And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints (Revelation 19:8).

So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42–44).

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50–53).

This transformation signals final victory over death!

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:54–58).

And they hear the words of their Lord, welcoming them:

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21 and 23).

The City is filled with joyful songs of worship before the throne.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever (Revelation 5:11–14).

Bunyan, telling the story, hears the unending chorus of “Holy, Holy, Holy” as the Gates are closed.

The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
(Revelation 4:8–11)

Words can hardly express the “glorious joy” that will be ours in heaven. Concluding his account of Christian and Hopeful entering into glory, Bunyan adds, “when I had seen, I wished myself among them.”

He who testifies to these things says,
“Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
(Revelation 22:20)

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Celestial City

The talk they had with the Shining Ones was about the glory of the place; who told them that the beauty and glory of it was inexpressible. There, said they, is the Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. You are going now, said they, to the paradise of God, wherein you shall see the tree of life, and eat of the never-fading fruits thereof; and when you come there, you shall have white robes given you, and your walk and talk shall be every day with the King, even all the days of eternity. There you shall not see again such things as you saw when you were in the lower region upon the earth, to wit, sorrow, sickness, affliction, and death, for the former things are passed away. You are now going to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob, and to the prophets—men that God has taken away from the evil to come, and that are now resting upon their beds, each one walking in his righteousness. The men then asked, What must we do in the holy place? To whom it was answered, You must there receive the comforts of all your toil, and have joy for all your sorrow; you must reap what you have sown, even the fruit of all your prayers, and tears, and sufferings for the King by the way. In that place you must wear crowns of gold, and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One, for there you shall see him as he is. There also you shall serve him continually with praise, with shouting, and thanksgiving, whom you desired to serve in the world, though with much difficulty, because of the infirmity of your flesh. There your eyes shall be delighted with seeing, and your ears with hearing the pleasant voice of the Mighty One. There you shall enjoy your friends again that are gone thither before you; and there you shall with joy receive, even every one that follows into the holy place after you. There also shall you be clothed with glory and majesty, and put into an equipage fit to ride out with the King of Glory. When he shall come with sound of trumpet in the clouds, as upon the wings of the wind, you shall come with him; and when he shall sit upon the throne of judgment; you shall sit by him; yea, and when he shall pass sentence upon all the workers of iniquity, let them be angels or men, you also shall have a voice in that judgment, because they were his and your enemies. Also, when he shall again return to the city, you shall go too, with sound of trumpet, and be ever with him.

The Celestial City

At last Christian and Hopeful have arrived at the Gates to the Celestial City. The city represents heaven, where all who have found rest and refuge in Christ will complete their journey and find eternal joy in His presence. The pilgrims have long looked forward to the day when they would finally reach their destination and see with their eyes what they sought by faith. The Shining Ones “told them that the beauty and glory of it was inexpressible.” For those of us who are still on the journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, it is impossible to fully grasp and describe the splendor of heaven. Bunyan, however, provides a glimpse of its wonder.

The pilgrims talk with the Shining Ones “about the glory of the place.” Their discussion is not wistful conjecture or mere speculation. Bunyan again points us to Scripture. What we know of heaven for certain is only what God has revealed to us in His Word. Through the testimony of the Shining Ones, Bunyan weaves together several verses that offer a foretaste of the joy that awaits us.

In heaven the church, that Christ has redeemed “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9) is brought near and gathered in His presence. The people of God are one body (Ephesians 2:16, 4:4; Colossians 3:15), one “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9). Throughout history they have been scattered and separated by time and space, divided by language and custom, fragmented by denomination and polity. But in heaven distinctions will fade and divisions will dissolve. The “spirits of just men made perfect” will all be one in praising and adoring their Savior.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:22–24).

Heaven is “the paradise of God, wherein you shall see the tree of life, and eat of the never-fading fruits thereof.”

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1–2).

We will be clothed in white (dressed in righteousness) and will walk and talk with the King.

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy (Revelation 3:4).

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads (Revelation 4:4).

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:1–3).

We will be freed from sin’s presence as well as its curse and condemnation. There will be no more sorrow, sickness, affliction, or death.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
(Isaiah 35:10)

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
(Isaiah 65:17–19)

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

We will rejoice to see and hear and serve the Mighty One of Israel.

You shall have a song
As in the night when a holy festival is kept,
And gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute,
To come into the mountain of the Lord,
To the Mighty One of Israel.
(Isaiah 30:29)

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads (Revelation 22:3–4).

We will be reunited with friends and loved ones who have gone on before us. We will enjoy fellowship with saints of old who are ““now resting upon their beds” and walking in righteousness.

The righteous perishes,
And no man takes it to heart;
Merciful men are taken away,
While no one considers
That the righteous is taken away from evil.
He shall enter into peace;
They shall rest in their beds,
Each one walking in his uprightness.
(Isaiah 57:1–2)

And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11).

In heaven we will enjoy our eternal reward. We will rest from the toils and sorrows on earth and reap the fruit of what we have sown.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (Galatians 6:7–8).

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:13).

We will be clothed with glory and equipped to accompany the King of Kings when He comes again at the sound of a trumpet.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).

And we will rule, and reign, and judge with Him.

I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;
A fiery stream issued
And came forth from before Him.
A thousand thousands ministered to Him;
Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
The court was seated,
And the books were opened.
(Daniel 7:9–10)

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 14–15).

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? (1 Corinthians 6:2–3).

There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:5).

Best of all, we will be in the presence of the King of Glory and we will “always be with the Lord.”

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Welcomed at the Gate

Then I saw in my dream, that Christian was as in a muse a while. To whom also Hopeful added this word, Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ makes you whole; and with that Christian broke out with a loud voice, Oh, I see him again! and he tells me, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.” Then they both took courage, and the enemy was after that as still as a stone, until they were gone over. Christian therefore presently found ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the river was but shallow. Thus they got over.

Now, upon the bank of the river, on the other side, they saw the two shining men again, who there waited for them; wherefore, being come out of the river, they saluted them, saying, We are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those that shall be heirs of salvation. Thus they went along towards the gate.

Now you must note that the city stood upon a mighty hill, but the Pilgrims went up that hill with ease, because they had these two men to lead them up by the arms; also, they had left their mortal garments behind them in the river, for though they went in with them, they came out without them. They, therefore, went up here with much agility and speed, though the foundation upon which the city was framed was higher than the clouds. They therefore went up through the regions of the air, sweetly talking as they went, being comforted, because they safely got over the river, and had such glorious companions to attend them.

Now, now, look how the holy pilgrims ride,
Clouds are their chariots, angels are their guide:
Who would not here for him all hazards run,
That thus provides for his when this world’s done?

Over the River

As Christian struggles to cross the River, he is “in a muse.” Facing death causes him deep concern and consternation. He ponders his life and his thoughts are troubled with fears, regrets, doubts, and dismay. But Christian is calmed by two valuable comforts:

  1. He is encouraged by Hopeful, who stays near him, cheers his soul, and points him to Christ.
  2. He remembers the Word of God. It is hidden in his heart (Psalm 119:11) and now shines forth to clear and cleanse his thinking. He recalls the promise in Isaiah 43:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.”
(Isaiah 43:1–2)

O that God would grant us such comforts! Remembrance of His Word and godly friends who will keep that Word before our eyes and in our ears—these can help keep our head above the fearful tide. These can be ours—in times of trouble and trial, even in our final moments of life on earth, but we must cultivate and cherish these comforts. Don’t take them for granted or assume you will have them in your hour of need. Invest time in studying, understanding, and memorizing Scripture. And invest time in cultivating Christian friendships—brothers and sisters who will pray for you, hold you accountable, and speak God’s Word into your life.

One of the most significant themes in The Pilgrim’s Progress is the preeminence of God’s Word. Too often we fail to realize its worth! On our journey from the City of Destruction (this present sinful world) to the Celestial City (the glorious world to come), it is our invaluable guide and indispensable comfort. Over and over Bunyan highlights just how essential Scripture is to our spiritual life and well-being.

And now, as Christian experiences death, God’s Word is his comfort that instills courage and causes the enemy to be “still as a stone.”

Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.
(Exodus 15:16)

Scripture again, as it did in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, warms Christian’s heart and lights his way. He is able to find ground to stand on. He and Hopeful make it safely over the river.

On the bank of the River the two pilgrims are greeted again and welcomed by the Shining Ones. The Shining Ones identify themselves as “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Christian and Hopeful are now ushered by angels to their final destination—the City whose foundation sits “higher than the clouds.”

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:16).

They shed the final remnants of corruption and put on immortality, having conquered death through the power of Christ Jesus.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:53–57).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2019 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.