Fourth Stage: From the Valley of Humiliation to the Shadow of Death

Having found relief and comfort at the Palace Beautiful, Christian sets off. Although climbing the Hill was difficult, going down is even more so. The virgins of the palace accompany him to the bottom where lies the Valley of Humiliation. They give him food and drink and bid him farewell.

Christian enters the Valley alone. After a little while he sees a foul fiend approaching. The fiend looks like a dragon and his name is Apollyon, which means “destroyer.” As it turns out, he is the prince of the City of Destruction. He attempts to persuade Christian to return there and serve him once more.

Christian refuses, so Apollyon points out the hardship and shame many of the Lord’s servants suffer. Christian refuses again, so Apollyon accuses him of being an unfaithful servant. Christian acknowledges his unfaithfulness but declares the Prince has pardoned all his crimes.

Apollyon breaks into a rage. He throws fiery darts at Christian, inflicting wounds on his head, hand, and foot. Christian defends himself with sword and shield. The battle continues more than half a day until he is exhausted. When Apollyon draws close for a killing blow, Christian gives him a deadly thrust with the sword. Defeated, the fiend flies away.

A hand appears offering leaves from the tree of life. Christian applies them to his wounds which heal immediately. He sits down to eat and drink the provisions from the palace. Refreshed, he carries on with sword in hand. At the end of the Valley of Humiliation he enters another valley, the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Christian meets two men at the borders of the Shadow. They are turning back, for the Valley is dark and filled with “hobgoblins, satyrs, and dragons of the pit.” They also heard “a continual howling and yelling, sounds of a people in misery too great for words.” Yet Christian resolves to go forward.

The path through the Valley is narrow. On the right is a very deep ditch; on the left a bottomless quagmire. Because the path is dark, Christians proceeds with caution. In the middle of the Valley, the path passes the mouth of hell. Flames, smoke and hideous noises pour from it. Christians puts away his sword and takes up the weapon all-prayer.

He treks several miles surrounded by terrifying sights and sounds. At one point, he hears several fiends sneaking up on him. At another, a fiend whispers blasphemies in his ear. But he is gladdened by the sound of a man’s voice ahead. It says, “Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

He also takes courage when dawn finally breaks. Looking ahead, he sees the second part of the Valley is more dangerous than the first. Although it’s full of “snares, traps, gins, and nets” as well as “pits, pitfalls, deep holes, and unsafe ledges,” he makes it to the end safely because he walks in daylight.

Exiting the Valley, Christian comes to a place full of blood, bones, ashes and mangled bodies. There is a little cave where two giants (Pope & Pagan) used to live. Pagan is dead. Pope still lives, but “because of his old age and many shrewd conflicts from his younger days” he can do nothing but sit at the mouth of the cave and watch as Christian passes safely by.

Considering Spiritual Warfare

As Christians, we must remember we have an enemy. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour,” so we must “be alert and of sober mind” (1 Peter 5:8). This is especially important for those of us living in first-world countries. We must never get so comfortable that we let our guard down!

Bunyan shows Christian engaging in spiritual warfare. But there is a crucial difference between our experience and Christian’s. The Bible rarely talks about Satan attacking individuals directly. And while demon possession was common in New Testament times, the Bible never says demons whisper in our ears or put thoughts into our hearts.

It’s important to realize Satan isn’t everywhere at once. Neither are there an infinite number of demons. Therefore, he must attack us indirectly. That is the meaning of the giants Pagan and Pope. Satan often attacks the church by means of false religion as well as the corruption of true religion.

Paganism had long since lost sway in Bunyan’s England. That’s why Pagan is dead. And the papacy had been greatly weakened by an English Reformation 300 years in the making, which is why Pope can do nothing but leer. Yet Satan uses these giants today to harm Christians all over the world.

Over 100 million Christians in more than 70 countries suffer persecution. They are harassed, discriminated against, and physically harmed. Such persecution comes from those who are under Satan’s spell of false religion (e.g. Hinduism, Islam) or anti-religion (e.g. communism). He fills the world with hatred toward Jesus and His followers.

We experience this hatred to a lesser degree. While first-world Christians aren’t persecuted, we still face opposition and mockery for our faith. And all Christians are subject to the doubt and despair that fills Christian’s heart. Bunyan himself knew this struggle. He endured long periods when he feared he had blasphemed the Lord and committed the unforgivable sin.

Satan’s attacks may be indirect, but they are real nonetheless. He uses whatever means he can to pressure us back into his service. Like Christian, we must “put on the full armor of God” and “take our stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). Whether it’s persecution, temptation or mere distraction, we must resist his efforts to thwart our pilgrimage.

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