The western world pauses this week to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Normandy Invasion remembered today as D-Day. In June 1944, World War 2, considered by many to be the bloodiest war in history, raged on the twin fronts of Europe and Asia. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in secret collaboration with the Allies of the United Kingdom and Canada, had crafted an air and amphibious assault along a forty-mile stretch of beaches in northern France (Operation Overlord) that became that largest naval attack ever. In the early hours of June 6 came the assault by air, by sea and by land.
“It is hard to conceive the epic scope of this decisive battle that foreshadowed the end of Hitlers [sic] dream of Nazi domination. Overlord was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. The landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 servicemen. After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the Allied Forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs. Many of the first young men (most not yet 20 years old) entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection. Blanketed by small-arms fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. Yet somehow, due to planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces, Fortress Europe had been breached” (www.dday.org/overview/).
This week the leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and the United States (along with eleven other nations) gathered on the windswept green bluff above Omaha Beach (the bloodiest of the assaults). Nearby is the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where lie the white Latin crosses and stars of David of 9,388 American soldiers who perished.
In the realm of the cosmic war (“the great controversy”) still raging across the earth, could D-Day be a theological metaphor? If so what would it represent? Would D-Day be the birth of our Lord Jesus, as C. S. Lewis (during WW2) described it: “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” (Mere Christianity 51)?
Or would D-Day more fittingly represent the triumphant death of Jesus on the cross? Describing that moment, Ellen White wrote: “In the Saviour's expiring cry, 'It is finished,’ the death knell of Satan was rung. The great controversy which had been so long in progress was then decided, and the final eradication of evil was made certain” (Great Controversy 503).
Or yet what about his resurrection or his soon return to earth as King of kings and Lord of Lords? How could either glorious triumph not fulfill the mighty D-Day metaphor for the universe! Here is Jesus’ own description of his return: “'Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’” (Matthew 24:30-31). D-Day for the human race—but of course!
The truth is, every critical phase of God’s warfare to save the embattled human race is but another chapter out of the playbook of Heaven’s Supreme Commander, Jesus Christ. And who can’t notice that every advancing battle escalates the war and in fact advances the divine victory? First Bethlehem. Then Nazareth. Then Calvary. Then the empty tomb. Then the heavenly Sanctuary. And then the spectacular fiery theophany of the returning Christ witnessed by every eye in the universe! D-Day climax, D-Day supreme—call it what we will—the truth is that every hope within the human heart is but a longing (more often a sobbing) for the ultimate we have yet to experience.
How can we sit on such gloriously glad tidings? Rhetorical question. We can’t! Jesus is coming soon! And we have a world to warn and friends and neighbors to reach. We laud the ultimate sacrifice that tens of thousands of soldiers paid for freedom. But we bow most deeply before the crimson sacrifice our Lord and God himself paid to storm the enemy’s last bastions, to liberate the prisoners of war.
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
D-Day—because the best is yet to come!