Notes and Commentary on
The Pilgrim's Progress
by Ken Puls
27. A Stately Palace
I saw also, that the Interpreter took him again by the hand, and led him into a pleasant place, where was built a stately Palace, beautiful to behold; at the sight of which, Christian was greatly delighted; he saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold.
Then said Christian, May we go in thither?
Then the Interpreter took him and led him up toward the Door of the Palace; and behold, at the Door stood a great Company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table side, with a book, and his inkhorn before him, to take the name of him that should enter therein: He saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter, what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze: At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance, come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, Set down my name, Sir; the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his Sword, and put an Helmet upon his head, and rush toward the Door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force: But the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the Palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the Palace, saying,
Come in, Come in:
Eternal Glory you shall win.
So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. Then Christian smiled, and said, I think verily I know the meaning of this.
Now, said Christian, let me go hence. Nay, stay (said the Interpreter) till I have showed you a little more, and after that you shall go on your way.
Notes and Commentary
For the fifth lesson, the Interpreter takes Christian to see a beautiful Palace. This Palace represents the glory of heaven and eternal life. Seeing it brings Christian much delight. While the Palace itself is wonderful to behold, Christian also sees many people clothed in gold walking on top of it. These people represent the saints of God who have endured to the end and can say with Paul: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). After seeing the saints enjoying their reward, Christian expresses to the Interpreter his desire to go in.
The Door of the Palace signifies the true Gospel of Christ. Bunyan used this symbol of a Door earlier in his allegory to represent the Gospel. Goodwill said to Christian when he came through the Gate: "An open Door is set before you, and no man can shut it" (Revelation 3:8). Although no man can shut this Door, many attempt to block its path and destroy those who attempt to go through it. Christian sees a great company of men who desire to go, in but are afraid. This company represents the multitudes who want eternal life, its blessing and its joys, but are unwilling to endure the suffering, persecution and difficulties that come with obtaining it. Especially in Bunyan's day, those who pursued the true Gospel, in opposition to the established Anglican Church and the laws of the state, placed their lives in great danger.
Bunyan depicts the danger first as a man sitting at a table, ready to take down the name of any who would go through the Door. In Bunyan's time those who proclaimed the true Gospel were branded as "non-conformists" by the authorities. They were often arrested, imprisoned, stripped of worldly possessions, and publicly harassed and humiliated in an attempt to force them to renounce their faith. Along with the man at the table, a company of men in armor is standing near the Door. These men represent the authorities of the established church and the state who had the power to enact laws and create as much "hurt and mischief" as possible for those who would not conform to their ways. This opposition was not new to Bunyan's day. Believers in all ages have faced trials in this life. Paul explained some of his own difficulties to the Corinthians:
"From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).
The sight of such opposition leaves Christian amazed. None in the crowd were willing to face the opposition and gain the great the great reward of eternal life until a Valiant Man comes forward and boldly tells the man at the table: "Set down my name, Sir." Once the Valiant Man has publicly professed that he is a true believer, he takes the Sword (the Word of God) and the Helmet (Salvation) and rushes toward the Door. With much determination he perseveres and reaches the Palace.
In this lesson Christian learns several truths that will prove valuable to the success of his journey to the Celestial City. He learns, for example:
- He must face many fierce and strong enemies along the way.
- He must have courage and faith and never give up.
- He sees the importance of the Sword and the Helmet in winning the battle.
- He sees that he is not alone. There are many who have gone before him and their struggles were not in vain.
- He sees that the battle is worth fighting for the glory to be obtained at the end.
Soon Christian will fight his own battle against Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation. The lessons he is now learning at the House of the Interpreter will be essential to his victory.
We can also benefit from the Interpreter's lesson. We are commanded in Scripture:
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
We must set out hearts firmly upon the pursuit of eternal life, and press on despite the cost. Thos who live in fear of men and of what men can do will not come within the Door. We must as Paul,
…count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).
One more point is worth noting here in Bunyan's story. At the end of the lesson Christian smiles. He has already faced a measure of opposition and trial, and he is convinced that he understands the meaning of the lesson. In his confidence he tells the Interpreter: "Now let me go hence." The Interpreter, however, says: "Nay, stay till I have showed you a little more." Like Christian, we are often much too sure of ourselves and ready to leave the House of the Interpreter before we have seen all that is necessary. Our preparation for the battle is an essential part of our sanctification and perseverance. We are often much too ready to go and face the world without first saturating ourselves with the Word of God. The Spirit would have us stay longer and drink deeper from the Word. He has much to teach us that will help us avoid danger and face temptation. Like Christian, we must learn the value of lingering long in the Word of God.
Continue Reading 28. A Man in an Iron Cage
Return to 26. A Fire Burning Against a Wall