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


Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Puls

Christian at the Gate

15. Christian Arrives at the Gate

So in the process of time Christian got up to the Gate. Now over the Gate there was written, Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. He knocked therefore more than once or twice, saying,

May I now enter here? Will he within
Open to sorry Me, though I have been
An undeserving Rebel? Then shall I
Not fail to sing his lasting Praise on high.

At last there came a grave person to the Gate, named Goodwill, who asked, Who was there? and whence he came, and what he would have?

Christian: Here is a poor burdened Sinner. I come from the City of Destruction, but I am going to Mount Zion, that I may be delivered from the Wrath to come; I would therefore, Sir, since I am informed that by this Gate is the Way thither, know if you are willing to let me in?

Goodwill: I am willing with all my heart, said he; and with that he opened the Gate.


Notes and Commentary

At last Christian arrives at the Gate. Christian first heard of this Gate when Evangelist stirred his interest with the question, "Do you see yonder Wicket Gate?" Twice now Evangelist has found Christian in danger and has set him upon the Way, once at their first meeting and again at the high Hill. After feeling the terrifying weight of his burden in the midst of the Slough and under the cliffs of Mount Sinai, Christian is more ready than ever to be rid of his Burden. He remembers Evangelist's words: at the gate he will be told what he must do.

When Christian arrives at the Gate, he reads the beautiful promise of Matthew 7:7 "Knock and it shall be opened to you." The commands in this verse—ask, seek, and knock—are all present tense in the Greek, suggesting a continuing action. We are exhorted to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. Christian persists in his desire to enter in by knocking "more than once or twice." God's sovereign work of salvation necessarily employs human responsibility. The burdened sinner must come to Christ in faith and repentance. Bunyan expresses the contrition of Christian's heart in the poem he speaks as he seeks entrance: "Will he within open to sorry Me, though I have been an undeserving Rebel?" Bunyan provides a second verse to the poem under the text that emphasizes the necessity of faith:

He that will enter in must first without
Stand knocking at the Gate, nor need he doubt,
That is a knocker, but to enter in,
For God can love him, and forgive his sin.

Bunyan expanded on the imagery of the gate in another of his works called The Strait Gate: or, Great Difficulty of Going to Heaven. He explained that the gate spoken of by Christ in Luke 13:24 refers to the entrance into the kingdom of Heaven:

It is set forth by the similitude of a gate. A gate, you know, is of double use. It is to open and shut, and so, consequently, to let in or keep out; and to do both these at the season; as he said, "Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot;" and again, "I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath" (Neh. 7:3; 13:19-20). And so you find of this gate of heaven, when the five wise virgins came, the gate was opened; but afterwards came the other virgins, and the door was shut (Matt. 25). So then, the entrance into heaven is called a gate, to show there is a time when there may be entrance, and there will come a time when there shall be none; and, indeed, this is a chief truth contained in the text—Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Bunyan then identifies the One whom the Gate symbolizes. This gate is none other than Christ Himself, as Bunyan explains:

There is a door of faith, the door which the grace of God hath opened to the Gentiles. This door is Jesus Christ, as also himself doth testify, saying, I am the door (John 10:9; Acts 14:27). By this door men enter into God's favor and mercy, and find forgiveness through faith in his blood, and live in hope of eternal life; and therefore himself hath said, I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved; that is, received to mercy, and inherit eternal life.

Thomas Scott said of this Gate:

The gate, at which Christian desired admission, represents Christ Himself, as received by the penitent sinner, in all His offices, and for all the purposes of salvation, according to the measure of his explicit knowledge; by which he actually enters into a state of acceptance with God. The Scriptures referred to were spoken by our Lord Himself, previous to the full revelation of His character and redemption; and may be very properly explained of a man's finally and decidedly renouncing his worldly and sinful pursuits, and engaging with diligence and self-denial in a life of devotedness to God.

At the Gate he is finally met by a grave yet loving person, Goodwill, one who cares for his soul, but is quite serious in questioning his identity and intentions. In the next post we will explore the identity of this Gatekeeper in Bunyan's allegory.

Continue reading 16. Met by Goodwill
Return to 14. Christian returns to the Way


The text for The Pilgrim's Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©1997 Ken Puls
"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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