He answered, Sir, I perceive, by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment, (Heb. 9:27); and I find that I am not willing (Job 16:21, 22) to do the first, nor able (Eze. 22:14) to do the second. Then said Evangelist, Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils The man answered, Because I fear that this burden that is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave; and I shall fall into Tophet (Isa. 30:33).
It is true that those without a righteousness that answers the demands of God’s law and justice – which righteousness includes Christ’s propitiatory blood and obedience imputed — “shall fall into Tophet.” This shows that even the most heretically-bloated books in the world do contain some true statements.
And, Sir, if I be not fit to go to prison, I am not fit, I am sure, to go to judgment, and from thence to execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry. Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, why standest thou still? He answered, Because I know not whither to go. Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, “Fly from the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7). The man therefore, read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder wicket gate? (Matt. 7:13).
Evangelist points Christian to “yonder wicket gate,” which is Jesus Christ (Christ had said “I am the door”). It is to this “gate” that Evangelist directs Christian to escape from the wrath to come.
The man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining light? (Psa. 119:105; 2 Peter 1:19). He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do. So I saw in my dream that the man began to run.
Since Christian was unable to see the wicket gate (i.e., Christ) Evangelist’s follow-up question is “do you see yonder shining light?” By “shining light” I believe Evangelist is giving Christian a more general direction to the Word of God (Bunyan references 2 Peter 1:19):
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
Since Scripture is spoken of as a “lamp” and a “light” to illumine paths, Bunyan’s professing Christian is directed to read the “sure word of prophecy” (i.e., the Bible) till he receives further direction at the wicket gate. The phrases “until the day dawn” and “the day star arise in your hearts” may refer to the final glorification of true Christians at the consummation of all things. But if they be applied to initial regeneration then it behooves us to note the proper source of this “light” that later “illumines” the darkened ignorant heart of Bunyan’s Christian at “the place of deliverance.”
Now, he had not ran far from his own door, but his wife and children perceiving it, began to cry after him to return (Luke 14:26); but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying, Life! Life! Eternal life! So he looked not behind him (Gen. 19:17), but fled towards the middle of the plain.
I do not think it is superfluous to note that while crying “Life! Life! Eternal life!,” Bunyan’s Pilgrim is deadly ignorant of the righteousness upon which this eternal life is based. Thus:
While from the wrath of God fleeing, he is still under the wrath of God being (John 3:36) .
For by ignorant fleeing, an established self-righteousness he is ardently seeking (Romans 10:1-4).