In the classic allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan explains the journey of a newly-saved believer. Bunyan’s story unraveled in a dream of a man named Christian. After reading a section in the bible, Christian tells his wife and children that he must find a way to deliver them from the City of Destruction or they will be burned by fire from Heaven. As Christian sat in a field crying for salvation, a man named Evangelist advised him to run toward a shining light that would lead him to the Wicket-gate where he could learn how to be saved. Throughout his journey to the Celestial City, Christian encountered people who tried to discourage him and lead him astray in many ways. Two of these deceiving people, Worldly Wiseman and Apollyon, symbolize very common setbacks that occur in the walk of believers.
Worldly Wiseman was a man of high standing in his hometown Carnal Policy. He had great knowledge of how the world sees morality. As he crossed paths with Christian he tried to convince him that going to the Celestial City was a waste of time. He told Christian not to take counsel from Evangelist or read the Bible because doing so would only lead him to peril and death. However, even though Mr. Worldly Wiseman seemed to know what he was talking about, he didn’t. He tried to deceive Christian into thinking that he could have happiness and be released from his burdens if only he lived a moral life. He considered people who took the hard road to the Celestial city foolish. (13-19)
For the most part, Worldly Wiseman allegorically represents the world’s scorn of having a relationship with God. The world’s outlook, and that of Worldly Wiseman, fits right into the Devil’s plan because it makes people believe that if they are a good person they will go to Heaven without having a relationship with God and without taking the sins from their life, which is just not true. Christian was led astray by what Worldly Wiseman told him until Evangelist found him again and got him back on the road to the Celestial City.
Apollyon was a horrific beast, in the Valley of Humiliation, who believed that he was lord and protector of all the land. He despised the Prince (Jesus) and killed anyone who went to seek Him. When Christian encountered Apollyon, he tried to strike fear in his heart. He told Christian to go back to his home in the City of Destruction or he would kill him as he did the others who passed to find the Prince. Christian did not listen to him, but instead told him that he liked the things of the Prince better than those of Apollyon and would not return to his previous home but continue his journey. Hearing these things enraged Apollyon and he decided to kill Christian. However Christian stood his ground and fought him for nearly half a day. Battered and injured things looked grim for Christian but when Apollyon turned his back the Lord gave him the strength he needed to pierce his sword into the monster, and he flew away bringing victory to Christian. (63-69)
Within the narrative, Apollyon symbolizes subjection to worldly power and the loss of spiritual freedom. He tried to take away Christian’s freedom to choose a path towards God. Apollyon is comparable to a dictator who demands that the people under his rule must not worship or follow God, but instead take part in worldly, sinful practices. This type of government is all too common in this world. It causes people to have less knowledge of God because people fear to share the gospel in highly persecuted countries. Also the people who do know the gospel must risk everything at times. It’s hard for a father to sacrifice his wife and children or his life to follow God. However, people in lost, tyrannical countries must stay strong and fearless in their walk with God, and missionaries must trust that God can protect them as they share His Word with those countries. Evangelist went into Apollyon’s dominion, knowing the dangers, in attempt to save as many people as possible. Christian left his home and family, and went through many trials and obstacles to follow God. God is infinitely worth it though, both Evangelist and Christian knew this.
Every character in The Pilgrim’s Progress allegorically stands in for obstacles or blessings that occur in a Christian’s walk with Christ. This essay is focused on the obstacles. One of the worst things that happens in Christian churches across the world is the spectacle of half-hearted “Christians” believing that they don’t need a relationship with God. Instead, they have the mindset of Mr. Worldly Wiseman and believe following religious rules alone can get them to Heaven. Another common obstacle in a Christian’s, or even a non-believer’s walk is persecution. Apollyon, much like the world’s dictators, persecuted all who wanted to follow God. This kind of leadership makes it much more difficult for believers to follow Christ. Worldly Wiseman and Apollyon both symbolize some of the most destructive problems in the lives of Christ’s followers. However, those problems in reality, just as in the book, can be overcome.