In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, why did Ignorance fail to gain access to the Celestial City?
At the very end of the original version of John Bunyan’s work The Pilgrim’s Progress, a character named Ignorance, who has appeared several times earlier in the book, approaches the gates of the Celestial City (Heaven) and assumes that he will be admitted. Instead, he is thrown from that city down into hell. Bunyan’s description of this episode follows in bold, with non-bold commentary thereafter:
When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him;
The attitude of Ignorance here is presumptuous; he automatically assumes that he will be invited into heaven, even though there is no reason to think he is truly saved. Throughout the book, he has assumed that a conventionally “good” life, exemplified by conventionally “good” works, will save him. He still fails to understand that he cannot “earn” his way into heaven or that anyone “deserves” entrance into heaven.
but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Whence came you, and what would you have? He answered, I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets.
In this passage, Ignorance seems to assume that simply because he has attended church and participated in the ceremony of the eucharist, he is entitled to enter heaven. He also assumes that simply because he has listened to God’s teachings, he is similarly entitled.
Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King; so he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, Have you none? But the man answered never a word.
Ignorance can present no convincing evidence that he actually knows God or is genuinely, legitimately acquainted with him.
So they told the King, but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two Shining Ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the City, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away.
Because Ignorance has neglected or rejected knowledge of God, God rejects Ignorance.
Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.
Ignorance, like Satan before him, is cast down into hell. He has misused his life by failing to find the right way to salvation and by failing to heed earlier efforts to help him know the right way. His pride has led him to assume (falsely) that he could come to God on his own terms.