More Beyond (Plus Ultra)

Bob RoaneDeath, Eternal Life, Heaven, Hell, Jesus Christ

Jesus says: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms….I am going there to prepare a place for you. And I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

For more on Christ’s resurrection see Watergate “Proves” Jesus’ Resurrection and Christ Changes the Calendar.

I used these Scriptures again to point Christians to our eternal hope guaranteed by Christ’s historic, bodily resurrection from the grave. We are confident about Heaven because Jesus, God’s Son, came down from Heaven in His incarnation and He returned there in His ascension. Christ is the Forerunner, Pioneer, and Trailblazer who paves the way for all who follow after Him. We are sure about Heaven because Christ is our trustworthy, reliable, faithful Leader. We trust the words of our Savior and King. Faith is the assurance (title deed and confirmation) of things hoped for (guaranteed by God) and the evidence of things not seen. God the Holy Spirit convinces Christians of the reality of eternal life with Christ, even when we cannot yet experience this with our physical senses.1

Jesus’ antidote for our troubled hearts is trusting Him. The Psalmist says: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”2 What can COVID-19 do to us? Only what our Heavenly Father allows. We are immortal until our work for Christ on earth is done. Isaiah says: “God will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal.”3 Delivering us is God’s job; trusting Him is ours.

Christopher Columbus

Columbus (1451- 1506) was an Italian explorer sent out by Spain. Before his voyage, Europeans spoke of the “Western Sea.” We now call it the Atlantic Ocean. Many wondered if anything existed beyond and people feared that they would sail off the edge of the world. Spain’s coat of arms once contained its national motto, “Ne Plus Ultra,” meaning, “Nothing More Beyond.” They believed that they could sail no further than the Pillars of Hercules.

In 1492 Columbus and his ships sailed off and Europe’s people waited expectantly. After a five-week voyage, Columbus sighted land in The Bahamas. He named this island San Salvador (after Christ the Savior). Columbus returned to Spain in 1493 and the good news rapidly spread across the continent. When Columbus reappeared in Europe, crowds were ecstatic; they shouted with joy! Columbus announced a paradise beyond the sea, rich beyond their dreams. Soon Spain’s king changed the nation’s motto to “Plus Ultra,” meaning, “There is more beyond.” Their vision was stretched and expanded.

Jesus’ Saving Work

Before Christ was crucified for our sins and rose triumphantly from the tomb, people wondered if there was anything beyond death. In the cemetery people stood beside the grave hole and watched sadly as their loved one was lowered into the earth. They saw and felt death’s sting and darkness. They grieved and wondered, “Is there anything more beyond?” They were afraid of death and rightly so. The Bible describes death as the “last enemy.”4

But after 33 years of obedient service, God’s Son suffered Hell’s equivalent on Calvary’s cross to take away death’s sting.5 Scripture says that Christ was made a curse for us,6 that Jesus bore our sins in His body on the tree,7 that God the Father laid on Christ the iniquity of us all.8 On the first Good Friday, His disciples, His enemies, and the crowds watched to see what would happen after the Prince of Glory died and was buried.

But on Resurrection Day, the first Easter morning, Jesus stepped forth from the tomb and declared: There is something beyond! A whole new world; a whole new way of life with God. There is Paradise beyond our greatest expectations. Our Heavenly Father loves us and stretches out His arms to embrace us and to wipe away our tears! Christians believe in Heaven and eternal life with Christ after death because Jesus shows and tells us. He is the living proof and the Risen Savior who sent Paul the Apostle to write to us:

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection comes also through a man [Jesus]. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.9

Looking Ahead to Jesus’ Return

In the Older Testament, Elijah and Enoch were raised by God up to heaven and that was wonderful. But only Jesus goes back to the Father to bring all His followers into the Father’s presence with Him! That’s why Scripture says: “We wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”10

Until Christ returns for us, we hang on to Him in faith and prayer and help others do that. Life is a wilderness of twists and turns where trust in Christ is our only compass. William How’s hymn celebrates:

O Word of God Incarnate, O Wisdom from on high, O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O light of our dark sky; We praise you for the radiance That from the hallowed page, A lantern to our footsteps Shines on from age to age.

The hymn says that Jesus, God’s Incarnate Word, guides us through this world by His Holy Spirit, working with His written word, the Bible. Psalm 119 says: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path….Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.11 Instead of flashlights, ancient travelers carried a small, flat lamp with an oil-fed wick. It gave just enough light to see a short distance ahead. Likewise, the Lord usually gives us just enough light to trust and obey Him step by step, day by day.

It’s hard for us to believe in a home with Christ that we’ve never seen, especially when the road is bumpy. It’s not easy to fix our eyes on what is unseen, but it is necessary. For some, the journey has been very long and stormy. And we are tired. But Jesus reminds us that it’s worth it.

The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin, but the light of the world is Jesus! He is the Light at the end of the tunnel! Aren’t you glad He came for us? How does Christ’s resurrection change the way you live now during the COVID-19 crisis? How will it change your priorities for the future?

Notes (various translations): 1 Heb 11:1.     2 Psalm 56:3-4.     3 Isaiah 26:3-4.     4 1 Cor 15:26.    5 1 Cor 15:56.     6 Galatians 3:13.     7 1 Peter 2:24.     8 Isaiah 53:6.     9 1 Cor 15:20-23.     10 Titus 2:13-14.     11 Psalm 119:105,37.