On February 23, 1945, U.S. Marines defeated Japanese troops and captured Mount Suribachi, the highest point on the island of Iwo Jima. This decisive victory during the Battle of Iwo Jima not only secured for American forces an important defensive position, but marked a turning point in the Pacific campaign. The conquest of the island provided the first U.S. airbase inside the Japanese inner-defense system. America was literally at the doorstep of victory over Japan.
The victory at Mount Suribachi also gave us one of the most memorable images of the war. The image of the six marines raising the flag, the most reproduced photograph in the history of photography, has come to symbolize American patriotism and valor. From February 19, 1945, until victory was officially declared about a month later on March 16, 4000 men of the U.S. Marine Corps lost their lives as they fought for the preservation of American ideals and liberty.
More than 19 centuries prior to that decisive battle, another battle was fought on another hill - a hill called Mount Calvary. There, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the captain of our salvation, was hung on a cross in what may have appeared to be certain victory for the side of the Adversary. Its effect was, in fact, just the opposite.
Jesus did not lose His life, neither was it taken from Him. Jesus said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:17b-18.)
The Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ never ceased to be in complete control. When Pilate expressed his authority to Jesus, saying, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" Jesus answered, saying, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." (John 19:10-11.) Jesus did not deny Pilate's authority, He merely informed him of its source.
From that point, Pilate sought to release Jesus, but prophecy required the Lamb to be slain, and Pilate - caught between doing what was just and sustaining his political career - could not avoid it. (See John 19 & Acts 4:23-28.) Judgement was passed and the sentence was proclaimed: Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified. Our Lord, bearing His cross, was led to Golgotha "as a Lamb to the slaughter."
After six grueling hours on the cross, with his last breath, Jesus did not call for the more than 12 legions of angelic reinforcements which stood ready. Instead, He uttered words that confirmed that no man took His life, but He laid it down. He said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:46.)
Jesus' death on the cross, therefore, was not a defeat, but a strategic victory. By His death, He insured life and peace for whosoever would accept His sacrifice for their sins. The devil, who assayed to kill the Son and Heir of the Heavenly Kingdom, did not see the end of the matter.
Satan, who displayed his knowledge of the Bible during Jesus 40-day fast in the wilderness, had apparently missed the prophetic intent of the Old Testament. He had no idea that, by His death, Jesus would fulfill the prophecies hidden in the system of sacrifices which God had instituted in the Law.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:7-8.) None of the princes of this world knew the mysteries of God's work: neither Herod, nor Pilate, nor yet the great prince of this world - Satan himself.
His plan took the enemy by complete surprise. Whereas the devil claimed victory as Christ hung on the tree, a multitude of prophecies were being fulfilled that would secure the redemption of man. The death of our Savior paid the price for our sins and His words were made a reality, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. ...I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:7,9.)
The veil that stood between man and the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom, and Jesus stood as the only way into the glorious presence of the Almighty God.
The Lord went into the lower parts of hell and took the keys of hell and of death from the hands of the adversary, and the bondage of sin - Satan's greatest hold on mankind - was put under subjection to the blood of the Lamb.
Jesus emerged from the grave as the glorious, ever-living Son of God, and the hope of the world, as the Lord had foretold by His holy prophets, was manifested. God was triumphant!
It is now only a matter of time until all the forces of evil will be overthrown. The adversary remains at large. As we approach the end of the war for the souls of men, the devil knows his time is growing shorter, and he is seeking whom he may devour. He is determined that if he is going down, he is going to take some people with him.
But the war is won! Today, when the battles seem difficult and the way seems hard and steep, we, as soldiers in the army of the Lord, must look back to that great battle - the turning point of history - where, by one casualty, the lives of the entire race of man were purchased. Whosoever wants to receive this purchased gift need only defect to the Lord's side: believe with all your heart in the Lord Jesus Christ, and confess it with your mouth.
We may have to remain on the battlefield for a while yet, but, in the end when the dust settles, the banner of our Lord will be there - waving for all eternity - and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. AMEN.