A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress


Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Puls

Open Door

18. Shown an Open Door

So when he was got in, the man of the Gate asked him who directed him thither.

Christian: Evangelist bid me come hither and knock, (as I did) and he said, that you, Sir, would tell me what I must do.

Goodwill: An open Door is set before thee, and no man can shut it.

Christian: Now I begin to reap the Benefits of my hazards.


Notes and Commentary

Now safe inside the Gate in the company of Goodwill, Christian explains why he has come seeking and knocking. Evangelist had pointed him to this Gate that he might find a way of relief from his burden. Christian now inquires of Goodwill, "What must I do?" In response to this inquiry, the gatekeeper offers one of the most precious and comforting statements in all of Pilgrim's Progress. Goodwill recites the promise of God taken from Revelation 3:8, "See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it."

But to whom or to what does this door refer? In Bunyan's allegory the word Door is capitalized, showing that it has special meaning or significance. We have already established that the Gate which Christian entered is Jesus Christ Himself. The meaning of the Door also centers on Christ. In John 10: 79 Jesus said:

"Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."

In Revelation 3:7 Jesus Himself is described as "He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens." Our Lord is sovereign and none can stay His hand. The open Door is a beautiful metaphor depicting the unfettered spread of His Gospel. The symbolism hearkens back to the resurrection where Jesus conquered death in victory for His people. Those who came to His tomb on the morning of the first day of the week found an open Door, the stone rolled away.

In some passages the open Door is used to signify an opportunity to preach the Gospel and even the promise of success that God will accomplish all His purposes as His Word goes out. In 2 Corinthians 2:12 Paul uses the metaphor of a door to mean the opportunity provided by the providence of God to preach the Gospel in Troas. God promised that when His Word goes out it will never return to Him void. Evangelism is a means used by God to accomplish His purposes, as Paul goes on to explain:

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul speaks of a "great and effective door" which God has opened in Ephesus for him to preach the Gospel. In the final chapter of Colossians Paul asked the church to pray that God would "open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ" (Colossians 4:3).

Another use of the metaphor in the New Testament involves the power of God's Holy Spirit to regenerate hearts and bring the gifts of faith and repentance. In Acts 14:27 the open Door signifies the marvelous outpouring of grace as God's Holy Spirit quickened the hearts of Gentiles as well as Jews.

The Door of the Gospel is now open. The Spirit of God is at work changing the hearts and lives of men, women, boys, and girls. Now is the day of salvation. "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near" (Isaiah 55:6). Come to Jesus Christ. "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion" (Hebrews 3:15). The Door will not always remain open. One day God will close it. The Judgment will come and those who have rejected the Gospel will find, as those who perished in the flood found when they looked to the ark, a closed door set before them which no man could open. Those who are unprepared to meet their Lord will find, as the foolish virgins did, their entrance barred:

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" But he answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you." Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming (Matthew 25:10-13).

Christian responded to the Good News offered by Goodwill by saying, "Now I begin to reap the Benefits of my hazards." The Benefits of coming to Christ are too numerous to fathom, but they begin even as a sinner takes his first steps towards seeking Christ. Goodwill gives Christian the precious promise of God that the Way to the cross lies open. There is yet daylight in the day of salvation. If Christian truly seeks after the Lord and His mercy, He will be found! Already Christian had been through many dangers and found God to be merciful. Christian felt the weight of his burden. He knew his sin was deserving of death. He should have perished in the City of Destruction, or sank forever into the Slough of Despond, or been killed by one of the arrows at the Gate. But in the midst of these hazards God manifests His blessing.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities
(Psalm 103:10).

But for the mercy of God, Christian would surely have perished, but now he is standing within the Gate. He knocked and it was opened to him. Now he must seek the cross and an open Door is set before him. That same promise is before us today. The call of the Gospel has gone out. But the call is urgent. Soon the day of salvation will end. It ends for us individually at the moment of death, and one day it will end for all humanity at the coming of our Lord. Time is short and the hazards are many; we must not put off coming to Christ!

Continue Reading 19: Christian Laments His Neighbors
Return to 17. Pulled Inside the Gate


The text for The Pilgrim's Progress is public domain
Notes and Commentary ©1997 Ken Puls
Image "Doorway in Caesarea" by Ken Puls
View image on Flickr
"A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress"
was originally published from January 1993 to December 1997
in "The Voice of Heritage," a monthly newsletter
of Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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