Death is a River

“Ah! thou wise man, full of worldly wisdom; thy wisdom will stand thee here, but what wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan? Philosophy may do well for thee to lean upon whilst thou walkest through this world; but the river is deep, and thou wilt want something more than that. If thou hast not the arm of the Most High to hold thee up in the flood and cheer thee with promises, thou wilt sink, man; with all thy philosophy, thou wilt sink; with all thy learning, thou shalt sink, and be washed into that awful ocean of eternal torment, where thou shalt be forever.” – Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon Christ Crucified.

 

“Now I further saw that betwixt them and the Gate [of Heaven] was a River, but there was no bridge to go over; the River was very deep; at the sight therefore of this River, the pilgrims were much astounded…The pilgrims then began to inquire if there was no other way to the Gate…The pilgrims then, especially Christian, began to despond in his mind, and looked this way and that, but no way could be found by them by which they might escape the River…They then addressed themselves to the water; and entering, Christian began to sink, and crying out to his good friend Hopeful, he said, ‘I sink in deep waters, the billows go over my head, all his waves go over me’…Then said the other, ‘Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good…Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.’ And with that, Christian brake out with a loud voice, ‘Oh I see him again! And he tells me, When though passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.’ Then they both took courage, and the enemy was after that as still as a stone, until they were gone over. Christian therefore presently found ground to stand upon; and so it followed that the rest of the River was but shallow. Thus they got over.” – John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

 

It is Jesus who gets us across this river – this river we will all face – not worldly wisdom, philosophy, or learning, lest we be washed into that awful ocean.

{emphasis mine}


From “The Pilgrim’s Progress” | God, the King of Princes

Of the many battles which Christian fought on his way to the Celestial City (City of Sion), none were more epic and dangerous than his battle with Apollyon (Rev. 9:11). After being fitted with armor (Eph. 6:10-18), Christian begins his journey into the Valley of Humiliation and comes upon the foe Apollyon. Christian is seized with fear and contemplates turning back but remembers that he has no armor for his back, and therefore resolves to fight.

Apollyon: Whence come you, and whither are you bound?

Christian: I come from the City of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and am going to the City of Sion.

Apollyon: …I perceive thou art one of my subjects for all that country is mine; and I am the prince and god of it. How is it then that thou hast run away from thy king?…

Christian: I was born indeed 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

Apollyon: There is no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, neither will I as yet lose 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?

 Apollyon: …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 too, and all shall be well.

Christian: …I count that the Prince under whose banner now I stand is able to absolve me; yea, and to pardon also what I did as to my compliance with thee…and besides…I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country better than thine…

Apollyon: …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!…

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…

Apollyon: Thou hast already been unfaithful in thy service to him, and how dost thou think to receive wages of him?
[Apollyon then recounts many of Christians failures] 

Christian: All this is true, and much more, which thou has left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honour is merciful and ready to forgive…I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.

Apollyon: …I am an enemy to this Prince: I hate his person, his laws, and people…

Satan (Apollyon) may be the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) and “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), but, as Christian recalled, we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). Amen!

Bunyan, John, and Roger Sharrock. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Harmondsworth. Penguin, 1987. 51-53. Print.

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How does this encounter encourage or challenge you? Does it expose any lies you are believing or remind you of any truths you should cling to? I’d love to get your thoughts!