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

Notes and Commentary

by Ken Puls

on John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress

Part Two

Christian in the Higher Regions

3. News About Christian and His Reward

"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:

1. Eternal reward awaits those who come to Christ.

Those who heed the warnings, flee Destruction, and follow the Way to the end will receive their reward. They will safely arrive at the Celestial City and be welcomed into the presence of their Lord. Christian has completed his journey. Now he has attained his reward in heaven. Bunyan describes the beauty of heaven with imagery from Scripture.

Christian now “walks in white.” He dwells in holiness, free from the presence of sin.

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. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (Revelation 3:4–5).

Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed (Revelation 6:11).

He walks with the angels among the hosts of heaven.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“If you will walk in My ways,
And if you will keep My command,
Then you shall also judge My house,
And likewise have charge of My courts;
I will give you places to walk
Among these who stand here.”
(Zechariah 3:7)

He dines in the presence and favor of His King.

Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15).

“He now lives at and in the fountain of life.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son (Revelation 21:6–7).

They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.
(Psalm 36:8–9)

He now has rest from his labor.

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
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 14:12–13).

Earthly sorrows have turned to heavenly joys.

Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalm 126:5–6)

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11)

2. Eternal judgment awaits those who reject Christ.

Those who reject the warnings, stay in Destruction, and scoff at pilgrims who follow the Way have reason to tremble at the news of Christian’s death. They have no reason for hope beyond the grave. For them death serves only as a reminder that judgment is near at hand. They don’t know how much time they have left upon the earth. They remain in Destruction, resolute in their sin, yet have no guarantee of living through another day or even taking their next breath.

Those who cast indignities on Christian when he set out to be a pilgrim have compounded their guilt. While their scorn and mockery can no longer reach Christian and cause him pain or discouragement, the Lord takes their sinful derision personally.

Those who rejected and ignored Christian, were rejecting and ignoring Christian’s Lord.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades. He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” Luke 10:13–16).

The Lord will surely return to bring judgment upon the world.

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).

Any mistreatment or injustice done to one of His followers is regarded “as if done unto Himself.”

Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25: 43–46).

3. Death itself bears witness to the brevity of life and its eternal consequences.

Death exists in the world because of sin. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:32a). We die because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The reality of death remains a fearful testimony to the truth that we are all sinners in need of grace. Every death and every funeral is a reminder that our time is short. They should sober our thinking and urge our repentance. We dare not delay. We must heed the warnings of God’s Word and flee Destruction. We must choose the path that leads to life and peace.

Christian was faithful to the end. He has gone on to his reward. But his memory lives on. His memory continues to provoke the thoughts of those who knew him and those who learn of his pilgrimage. And by God’s grace, his memory persists in pointing others to the Way of salvation and eternal life.

Continue Reading 04. New About Christian's Wife and Children

Return to 02. Met by Mr. Sagacity

 

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.

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