Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Beyond

This blog is reprinted from one I adapted from an invitation by Brent Wiley on Columbus Day 2005. Brent is the evangelist for the church of Christ that meets in Los Osos, California. It gave me the opportunity to meet with local brethren while in the San Luis Obispo area last year.

This article didn't originate with Brent or myself. I'm not sure where it comes from as I've seen similar articles on various church websites (including here and here).

As you know, the Strait of Gibraltar connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. The narrow passage is about 40 miles long and varies in width from about nine to 24 miles. All ships that sail from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean—and vice versa—must pass through the straits.

Prominent mountains (known as promontories) flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar from the east. These guardians were known to antiquity as the "Pillars of Hercules." The Rock of Gibraltar guards the European shore of the strait. To the south, a mountain in Morocco, Jebel Musa, guards the African shore.

The Spanish drew the Pillars on their 15th century coat of arms. The scroll that crossed the Pillars contained the Latin motto: Ne Plus Ultra—No More Beyond. These words warned sailors not to enter the Atlantic Ocean, for they believed nothing existed beyond the Pillars. Certain death lay beyond the Pillars, where mariners would surely sail off the edge of the earth.

However, in 1492 Christopher Columbus destroyed that common belief by sailing far out into the Atlantic Ocean—beyond the Pillars of Hercules. He discovered the New World on October 12, 1492, after a 36-day voyage from the Canary Islands.

In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries. The word being torn away by the lion is the Latin word Ne, to make it read Plus Ultra, which means More Beyond.

Columbus had proven that there was indeed “more beyond” the Pillars of Hercules.

When you think about it, the Sadducees espoused Ne Plus Ultra as well. Like the early mariners of the Mediterranean Sea, who said there was no more beyond the Pillars, the Sadducees said there was no more beyond the grave.

Jesus corrected the Sadducees’ mistaken understanding of God’s power to resurrect:
Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:29-32).
Jesus Christ, the "Lion of Judah," through His life, death, and resurrection, has torn that word Ne from the phrase, giving us the reality of More Beyond. Jesus clearly taught the Sadducees that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had moved beyond the grave to be with Him in heaven.

The Hebrew writer cautioned: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Beyond the grave, there are two destinies: The righteous shall enter into eternal life, and the wicked into everlasting punishment, according to Jesus in Matthew 25:46.

Because there is “more beyond” the grave, Jesus pleaded:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
What is your destiny beyond the grave? Which way will you take?

Will you stand with the Sadducees and proclaim that there is no more beyond the grave? To do so is to "go away onto everlasting punishment" when you die.

Or will you pass through the narrow "strait"—that is to heaven? Jesus has prepared a home for you in heaven (John 14:1-3).

Be ready, for there is more beyond.

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