By Ken Raggio
In 2003, while attending my wife in her final stages of cancer, I
took down a copy of John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and read the
entire book aloud to her over a period of several nights. It is a
profoundly provocative book - a keen allegory - that articulates many of
the most important virtues and vices that every Christian must face.
is not easy to read, because it is written in Old English, without
chapters or subtitles. But when we came to the episode where Christian,
in his journey to the Celestial City encountered Apollyon (representing
Satan himself) in the way, this scene conveys encouragement like few
things I have ever read. We both wept as we read it.
urge you to read it, as difficult as it may be. You will discover what I
am referring to. This is one of the greatest episodes in the timeless
classic, excerpted verbatim.
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now, in this valley of Humiliation, poor Christian was hard put to it;
for he had gone but a little way before he espied a foul fiend coming
over the field to meet him: his name is Apollyon.
Then did Christian begin to be afraid, and to cast in his mind whether to go back, or to stand his ground.
he considered again, that he had no armor for his back, and therefore
thought that to turn the back to him might give him greater advantage
with ease to pierce him with his darts; therefore he resolved to venture
and stand his ground: for, thought he, had I no more in mine eye than
the saving of my life, it would be the best way to stand.
he went on, and Apollyon met him. Now the monster was hideous to
behold: he was clothed with scales like a fish, and they are his pride;
he had wings like a dragon, and feet like a bear, and out of his belly
came fire and smoke; and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion.
When he was come up to Christian, he beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to question him.
APOLLYON: Whence came you, and whither are you bound?
CHRISTIAN: I am come from the city of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and I am going to the city of Zion.
APOLLYON: By this I perceive thou art one of my subjects; for all that country is mine, and I am the prince and god of it.
is it, then, that thou hast run away from thy king? Were it not that I
hope thou mayest do me more service, I would strike thee now at one blow
to the ground.
CHRISTIAN: I was, indeed, born in your
dominions, but your service was hard, and your wages such as a man could
not live on; "for the wages of sin is death," (Romans 6:23); therefore,
when I was come to years, I did, as other considerate persons do, look
out if perhaps I might mend myself.
APOLLYON: There is
no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, neither will I as
yet lose thee; but since thou complainest of thy service and wages, be
content to go back, and what our country will afford I do here promise
to give thee.
CHRISTIAN: But I have let myself to another, even to the King of princes; and how can I with fairness go back with thee?
Thou hast done in this according to the proverb, “changed a bad for a
worse;” but it is ordinary for those that have professed themselves his
servants, after a while to give him the slip, and return again to me. Do
thou so to, and all shall be well.
CHRISTIAN: I have
given him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to him; how then can I go
back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor.
APOLLYON: Thou didst the same by me, and yet I am willing to pass by all, if now thou wilt yet turn again and go back.
What I promised thee was in my non-age: and besides, I count that the
Prince, under whose banner I now stand, is able to absolve me, yea, and
to pardon also what I did as to my compliance with thee.
besides, O thou destroying Apollyon, to speak truth, I like his
service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and
country, better than thine; therefore leave off to persuade me farther: I
am his servant, and I will follow him.
Consider again, when thou art in cool blood, what thou art like to meet
with in the way that thou goest. Thou knowest that for the most part his
servants come to an ill end, because they are transgressors against me
and my ways. How many of them have been put to shameful deaths!
besides, thou countest his service better than mine; whereas he never
yet came from the place where he is, to deliver any that served him out
of their enemies’ hands: but as for me, how many times, as all the world
very well knows, have I delivered, either by power or fraud, those that
have faithfully served me, from him and his, though taken by them! And
so will I deliver thee.
CHRISTIAN: His forbearing at
present to deliver them, is on purpose to try their love, whether they
will cleave to him to the end: and as for the ill end thou sayest they
come to, that is most glorious in their account.
for present deliverance, they do not much expect it; for they stay for
their glory; and then they shall have it, when their Prince comes in his
and the glory of the angels.
APOLLYON: Thou hast already been unfaithful in thy service to him; and how dost thou think to receive wages of him?
CHRISTIAN: Wherein, O Apollyon, have I been unfaithful to him?
APOLLYON: Thou didst faint at first setting out, when thou wast almost choked in the gulf of Despond.
Thou didst attempt wrong ways to be rid of thy burden, whereas thou shouldst have stayed till thy Prince had taken it off.
Thou didst sinfully sleep, and lose thy choice things.
Thou wast almost persuaded also to go back at the sight of the lions.
when thou talkest of thy journey, and of what thou hast seen and heard,
thou art inwardly desirous of vainglory in all that thou sayest or
CHRISTIAN: All this is true, and much more which
thou hast left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honor is merciful,
and ready to forgive.
But besides, these infirmities
possessed me in thy country, for there I sucked them in, and I have
groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my
APOLLYON: Then Apollyon broke out into a
grievous rage, saying, I am an enemy to this Prince; I hate his person,
his laws, and people: I am come out on purpose to withstand thee.
CHRISTIAN: Apollyon, beware what you do, for I am in the King’s highway, the way of holiness; therefore take heed to yourself.
Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and
said, I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare thyself to die; for I
swear by my infernal den, that thou shalt go no farther: here will I
spill thy soul.
And with that he threw a flaming dart
at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he
caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.
did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him; and Apollyon
as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which,
notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon
wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot.
Christian give a little back: Apollyon, therefore, followed his work
amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he
This sore combat lasted for above half a day,
even till Christian was almost quite spent: for you must know, that
Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.
Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to
Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with
that Christian’s sword flew out of his hand.
Apollyon, I am sure of thee now: and with that he had almost pressed him
to death, so that Christian began to despair of life.
as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last blow,
thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached
out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying,
"Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise," Micah 7:8;
and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound.
perceiving that, made at him again, saying, "Nay, in all these things
we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us," Romans 8:37.
And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away, that Christian saw him no more.
"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," James 4:7.
this combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard, as I did,
what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time of the
fight; he spake like a dragon: and on the other side, what sighs and
groans burst from Christian’s heart.
I never saw him
all the while give so much as one pleasant look, till he perceived he
had wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword; then, indeed, he did
smile, and look upward!
But it was the dreadfullest sight that ever I saw.
when the battle was over, Christian said, I will here give thanks to
him that hath delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, to him that did
help me against Apollyon.
And so he did, saying,
“Great Beelzebub, the captain of this fiend, Designed my ruin; therefore
to this end He sent him harness’d out; and he, with rage
hellish was, did fiercely me engage: But blessed Michael helped me, and
I, By dint of sword, did quickly make him fly: Therefore to Him let me
give lasting praise, And thank and bless his holy name always.”
there came to him a hand with some of the leaves of the tree of life,
the which Christian took and applied to the wounds that he had received
in the battle, and was healed immediately.
He also sat
down in that place to eat bread, and to drink of the bottle that was
given him a little before: so, being refreshed, he addressed himself to
his journey with his sword drawn in his hand; for he said, I know not
but some other enemy may be at hand.
But he met with no other affront from Apollyon quite through this valley.
at the end of this valley was another, called the Valley of the Shadow
of Death; and Christian must needs go through it, because the way to the
Celestial City lay through the midst of it."