Spain is the great southwestern peninsula of Europe. It juts out between two seas as does no other country of that continent. Before the discovery of America by Columbus, the Spaniards prided themselves on the supposed fact that their country was the last point of solid land on the earth westward. Beyond them, they thought, there was nothing but a vast expanse of water - a shoreless ocean - a mystery never to be solved.
Consequently the early coins of that country, in order to give prominence to this idea, were indented with a picture of the Pillars of Hercules, the two great sentries on each side of the straits of Gibraltar. Encircling these pillars on their coins was the inscription, “ne plus ultra” - nothing beyond. They imagined, therefore, that they constituted the limits of creation; that beyond them there was nothing. Consequently, as in creation the last is the best, they gave to themselves the preeminence.
In this proud idea they rested and praised the Lord. In their own estimation, therefore, they constituted the “ne plus ultra” of God's favored people. Thus they constituted another proud monument of man's folly and ignorance, from which it is well to take warning.
In course of time, however, Columbus conceived the idea of another world west of Spain. After long years of discouragement, sufficient to crush the spirit of all but those of noble impulses and high resolves, he was permitted, with a small fleet, utterly insignificant in this age, to sail westward. He thus discovered the new world whose existence, if ever known before, had faded from the memory of man.
On his return, when the Spaniards became convinced that a great continent lay to the west of them, they were compelled, humiliating as it was, to change the inscription on their coins, encircling the Pillars of Hercules, to “plus ultra” - more beyond. This the demonstrated truth demanded.
Thus the discovery of America took the “ne” off of their proud motto, thus teaching them a lesson which should be a lesson to the world. Their negation was changed to an affirmation. Their boasted limit of creation was changed to an acknowledgment of the unknown beyond.
Dr. Allen’s story is borne out by the monument in Valladolid, Spain, commemorating where Christopher Columbus died in 1506. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying the Latin word “ne” (or “no”) from ne plus ultra”, making it read “plus ultra” instead. And well it should, for Columbus had indeed proven that there was "more beyond."
Dr. Allen originally used this illustration to challenge students to go forward into a whole new world after graduating. One can certainly see the application. But I share this today for a different reason.
Over the last few weeks, our church family has said a sad goodbye to several wonderful saints of God. As each of these fellow believers has stepped off into eternity, we have mourned his or her passing with tears. But the grief we share has been tempered by the knowledge that there is One, Jesus Christ, Who has gone before them (and us) in death and then returned to tell us that there is whole new world awaiting us on the other side of the grave.
In the eleventh chapter of the New Testament Gospel of John, Jesus said to a woman named Martha, who was grieving at the death of her brother, Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” He concluded with this question: “Do you believe this?”
Shortly thereafter, to prove His authority over death, He raised Lazarus from the grave! And by that same authority, He will one day raise from the dead all who believe in Him. Thereafter, forevermore, those who believe in Him “will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
And that, my friends, makes death bearable. For we know that there is indeed more beyond! There is indeed another world! There is indeed a place called Heaven! And in that place, death will never threaten God’s people again!
STORY SOURCE: http://biblehub.com/library/allen/autobiography_of_frank_g_al
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: http://biblehub.com.