“Life! Life! Eternal Life!”
John Bunyan brilliantly depicted salvation through faith in Christ in his great book The Pilgrim’s Progress. His hero, Christian, discovered that his great need was to avoid perishing in his sins. A man advised him to “Fly from the wrath to come.” So Christian began running, crying out, “Life! Life! Eternal life!” People thought he was a lunatic, just as they think of Christians today. Some friends tried to stop him. Running after him, they reminded him of all that he was forsaking. But Christian invited them to join him, explaining: “All which you shall forsake is not worthy to be compared with a little of that that I am seeking to enjoy…. I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; and it is laid up in heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed … on them that diligently seek it.” Though they refused and went back, Christian pressed on in faith.
Bunyan’s tale is so valuable because he understood the message of John 3:16 so well. Christian fled from destruction toward eternal life. And he ran not just anywhere, but to a narrow gate beyond which a light was shining. Beyond the gate, Christian came to a cross. As he looked at that cross—like Israel gazing to Moses’ serpent lifted up—the burden on his back (the weight of his many sins) came sliding off and fell away forever. There he gained the right to enter the Celestial City. At the end of his journey, as Christian drew near to that city, the angels came and told him: “You are going now to the paradise of God, wherein you shall see the tree of life, and eat of the never-fading fruits thereof…. You shall have white robes given you, and your walk and talk shall be every day with the King, even all the days of eternity.” Bunyan describes Christian and his companion, Hopeful, going into the heavenly city through the gates: “And lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold…. All the bells in the city rang again for joy, and it was said unto them, ‘Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.’”
The Pilgrim’s Progress tells a story that is thrilling to Christians because it depicts what is true for us. One crucial part of the truth of the story is that Bunyan’s Christian journeyed to the cross and from there to the Celestial City because someone told him where to go. The man’s name, predictably, was Evangelist. Early in the book, this man found Christian standing still with tears in his eyes. Evangelist inquired about him and found that the poor man had realized his need for salvation and was weeping over the certain judgment of his soul. “If this is your condition,” Evangelist asked him, “why are you standing still?” Christian replied, “Because I do not know where to go.”
Thankfully for Bunyan’s Christian, Evangelist knew what to tell him. Do you know? If our witness is to lead others to eternal life, we must be able to direct them to Jesus Christ and His cross through a true and saving faith. And if we do, those who believe will not perish but will have eternal life.
This excerpt is taken from Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips.