After the first stage of his journey, Christian reaches the Wicket Gate. A sign above it reads, “Knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Christians knocks several times before a man named Goodwill answers. He pulls Christian inside, explaining that Beelzebub has a castle nearby from which he shoots arrows at pilgrims.
He advises Christian to follow the way. Many side paths connect to it, but “You must distinguish the right way from the wrong, by paying attention to which is straight and narrow.” When Christian asks for help with his burden, Goodwill tells him to wait until he reaches the place of deliverance. He also tells Christian to knock at the door of Interpreter’s house.
Interpreter invites Christian in, promising to show him beneficial things. First, he shows Christian a picture of a man. The man’s eyes are lifted up, his hand holds a Bible, truth is on his lips, the world is behind him, and a crown hangs above him. This is a man authorized by God to guide Christian on his journey. In other words, he is a true evangelist.
Second, Interpreter leads Christian into a dusty parlor. A man sweeps the room, kicking up the dust. Then a woman sprinkles the room with water, making it clean. The parlor is the heart of a sinful man and the dust is sin. The man who sweeps is the law, which is powerless against sin. The woman who sprinkles water is the gospel, which alone cleanses the heart.
Third, Christian sees two little boys seated on chairs. One is named Passion, the other Patience. Passion cannot wait for his good things. He receives and squanders them right away, but Patience is willing to wait. This shows that the men of this world receive their good things in this life while godly men wait for the life to come.
Fourth, Interpreter leads Christian to a fire burning in a fireplace. A man dumps buckets of water on it to quench it. Behind the wall, another man pours oil on the fire so it cannot be quenched. The man pouring water is the devil; the one pouring oil is Jesus. This shows how Jesus sustains our faith despite the devil’s work.
Fifth, Interpreter shows Christian a beautiful palace guarded by armed men. There is a crowd out front, but none are brave enough to enter. One man strides forward and battles his way through the guards, gaining entry to the palace. This shows that the Christian life is fraught with hardship and warfare.
Sixth, Christian goes into a dark room where a man sits in an iron cage. The man confesses that although he was once a thriving Christian, he fell away from grace. He gave himself over to sinful desires and has no hope of repentance. Christian takes warning at the man’s plight and asks God to keep him vigilant.
Seventh, Interpreter leads Christian to a bedroom where a man is waking up. The man trembles with fear. He has just dreamt vividly of Judgment Day. In his dream, angels take some to heaven but leave him behind. Meanwhile, the pit of hell opens before him and the Judge looks at him in angry disapproval. The man fears judgment has come and he isn’t ready.
After showing Christian these things, Interpreter sends him forward on his journey. He encourages Christian to “keep all these things in mind, so they may prod you to move forward in the right direction.”
Considering the Christian Life
Christian has entered at the Gate but is still not converted. As part of his conversion, Bunyan presents a clear and complete picture of the Christian life. It’s only fair that Christian know exactly what he’s signing up for. What he sees at Interpreter’s house challenges our conceptions of what it means to be a Christian too.
The first two visions benefit those who are becoming Christians. Interpreter shows you what and whom to listen to. The man in the picture represents anyone with a genuine concern for your soul. Don’t unfairly label all Christians as hateful or judgmental. If someone lovingly speaks to you of heaven and how Jesus died for your sins, listen to them.
The third – fifth visions benefit those who are already Christians. Interpreter shows you what it means to practice true religion. Like Patience, do not seek an earthly reward but store up treasure in heaven. Like the valiant man, put on the armor of God to wage war against the forces of evil. The devil tries to quench our faith by tempting or opposing us. But take heart! Jesus sustains us by pouring His Spirit into our hearts.
The sixth vision is a warning for Christians not to fall away. The caged man relied on his own profession of faith, but in the end it fails him. Whether it’s possible to lose your salvation isn’t the point. The point is to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11) by relying on Jesus’ grace rather than your own religious devotion.
The seventh vision is a warning for those who aren’t Christians. The dreaming man saw the fate of all who perish apart from Christ. If you reject Jesus’ message of grace, you too will feel His angry eyes upon you. Repent and receive Him now before it’s too late!
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