Pilgrim’s Progress is one of those classic books that all should read – not just Christians who wish to walk more closely with Jesus (John 12:35), but those who are not born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8) and who do not know Jesus, nor do they have a personal relationship with Him (Luke 13:27). The former may be encouraged in their faith as they read of the difficulties, pitfalls and trials experienced by Christian (James 1:2, 3), who is the main character of the allegory. He carries with him, wherever he goes, a book that utterly changes his life (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17), and it is a guide to the Way (John 14:6) that leads him to the City of God (Revelation 21:2).
The book he carries is the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15, 16), and in real life, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13), the words within the covers can transform the lives of those who read them. By God’s grace those who are transformed (Ephesians 2:8, 9) like fictional Christian, will find themselves on a non-fictional journey to His Celestial City (Philippians 3:12).
John Bunyan’s allegory opens with a scene that portrays Christian dressed in rags (Isaiah 64:6). He is standing by a path with a book in his hand. On his back he carries a great burden. The rags are an outward representation of his inward, wretched state (Romans 3:23). The burden on his back symbolises the weight upon his conscience regarding his sinful life which he is unable to cast off until he meets Jesus at the cross (John 8:36).
From reading his precious book he understands he and his family are in danger, because they will die if they remain in the city where they live. He warns his family that they and the other inhabitants will be burned with fire from heaven (Genesis 19:23, 24), but they will not hear his words. They think he is out of his mind, and they do everything they can to persuade him he should return to his senses.
He retires to a field for solitary prayer, meditation and more reading of his book, and there he asks aloud, “What shall I do to be saved (Acts 2:37)?”
In God’s providence, a man nearby, whose name is ‘Evangelist’, asks him, “Why are you so disturbed?” He explains that the book condemns him to death, and he must face judgment (Revelation 20:15), then be executed. Evangelist enquires of him why he stands where he is, instead of taking action?
Christian replies, “Because I do not know where to go.”
Helpful and concerned for Christian’s salvation, Evangelist points to a ‘little gate’ (Matthew 7:13; John 10:9) on the far side of the field, but Christian isn’t sure he can see it. So Evangelist further asks him if he can see a tiny shining light (John 8:12), and he thinks he can. Evangelist tells him to keep his eye on the light because it will lead him directly towards the gate.
In great excitement he runs towards the light which marks the beginning of his intrepid and difficult journey (Matthew 7:14) in quest of the City of God.
You must read the whole book to learn of Christian’s many encounters with mainly evil characters (Ephesians 6:11-13) who set all sorts of traps and present obstacles to prevent him from reaching the Celestial City. In addition to meeting these unsavoury types he comes across others who are like him, one of whom becomes a trusted friend and partner. His name is Faithful.
A most useful aid is the addition of biblical text references where the story points to passages in the Bible. Therefore it is best to have a Bible handy for checking out the texts as you come across them.
Pilgrim’s Progress is available at Amazon UK.