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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.