There was a time when Spain controlled both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar. At that narrow place between the continents of Africa and Europe, there are two huge pillars. They were called the “Pillars of Hercules” because Greek mythology said that Hercules constructed them near the Straits of Gibraltar to mark the edge of the known world. Before Columbus took his famous voyage in 1492, this was the inscription in Latin that was chiseled into a monument there: NE PLUS ULTRA, which translated says, “No More Beyond.”
“No More Beyond” was the accepted belief of that day. No one thought that there was any more land beyond the strait of Gibraltar. They believed that only emptiness was out there past the western horizon, and no one questioned that belief. This is not surprising because no ship had ever sailed out and brought back proof that any more land existed.
Columbus’s discovery of a new world beyond Spain, though, changed everybody’s view of what they couldn’t see. Now they knew that something real was out there, even if they hadn’t seen it for themselves. The first Latin word in the monument was removed so that it read PLUS ULTRA, which means “More Beyond.” Spanish coins in Florida kept that slogan until 1796!
The “Pillars of Hercules” reminds us that there is also a vast sea of death before us. We can’t help but wonder if there is “No More Beyond,” or if there is “More Beyond?” How can we know for sure?
As a hospital chaplain, I probably see more than my share of death. It is the most difficult part of my job by far. I have seen a lot of fear surrounding death, and that is understandable. Let’s face it; none of us have ever experienced death before. Most people see it as unchartered territory. Is that really true, though?
The greatest comfort I can give a dying person is to tell them that Someone has sailed out into the sea of death and returned to tell us about it. His name is Jesus. Jesus did that so we would not have to live our lives afraid of death. “Since the children share in flesh and blood,[i.e. you and me] He Himself [Jesus] likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus is our “Columbus,” who has not only sailed into the dark vastness of death but has also defeated the icy grip that death has over us. This is why Jesus said: “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).
When we come to know Jesus as our personal Savior, He sets us free from the fear of death. Why? Because He not only experienced death and came back to life again, but He also endured the penalty our sin required. This has paved the way so we can follow Him. The Bible explains that because “… Christ has been raised from the dead . . . in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22). We who are Christ-followers no longer have that fear of death. We have been set free from it by Jesus Christ.
If you have turned from your sin and put your trust in Christ’s death and resurrection (which makes you eternally accepted by God), then you will know this joy and freedom for yourself. God will make you different on the inside. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I urge you to pursue the One who cheated death for you! If I can encourage you in any way, leave a comment at www.BethelChapelChurch.com or email me at BethelChapelChurch@gmail.com.