THE TRUMPETS CONTINUE TO SOUND
Rev 8:8-13 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
In verses 8 and 9 we find the sounding of the trumpet of the second angel. It revealed to the apostle John the symbolic representations of additional future events destined to soon take place. The symbolism we find is that of a great burning mountain that is cast into the sea. Again as noted before, fire and blood are signs of warfare, plundering, death, and destruction. It is interesting to note that the symbolism found with the sounding of the first angel's trumpet, a third part of the earth's plant life was destroyed, and, in the lesson text we find that with the sounding of the second angel, a third part of the sea, its creatures, and the ships that sailed upon its surface, were destroyed.
The symbolism here describes an event as devastating as if a tremendously powerful volcanic eruption took place, that seemingly blew an entire mountain apart, sending it, and its super-heated lava, into a nearby sea, destroying its inhabitants. This seems to be an extremely understandable application since only a few years prior to this writing, in A.D. 79, there was a tremendous earthquake followed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which completely engulfed the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii, as well as many other small villages, with a flood of destructive rubble and fiery lava. This being a physical example, the symbolic references found in this prophecy can be easily understood. Looking ahead we note with interest that a similar, destructive "third part" is also found in the next two symbolic judgments.
Looking for its literal fulfillment, we would naturally search through history for destructive warfare that came from the sea. As noted before, we historically found the Goths invaded the Roman Empire in about the year 409. Approximately ten years later another northern barbaric nation, known as the Vandals, originated around the Baltic Sea area of Europe. Under the leadership of Genseric, their armies came south through the Spanish peninsula, crossed over the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea into northern Africa, conquered, and inhabited, every village and nation in their path. For approximately thirty years they ruthlessly ruled northern Africa. During these years, their naval fleets grew mighty allowing them to attack and pillage merchant ships, as well as most of the inhabited islands found in the Great Sea.
Having grown into an extremely formidable warring nation, they sailed their mighty fleets across the sea into the coastal region near Rome, and their met the fleets of the Roman navy. Mighty battles ensued that resulted in many ships being destroyed, and a great number of warring sailors slain - so many that historians wrote of the seas becoming red from the bloodshed. The Vandals prevailed, and the Roman fleets were destroyed. Now unprotected, the city of Rome was besieged for fourteen days. No human lives that stood in their way, regardless of sex or age, were spared. All things of value, amassed for years by the Roman imperial dynasties, were taken, along with massive looting from the inhabitants throughout the city. Nothing of value was left to be found in the city of Rome and its immediate surroundings. With this defeat, devastation, and plundering having been accomplished, the city of Rome was considered to be valueless and was completely abandoned by these raiding Vandals.
A more exact fulfillment of the prophetic symbolism found with the sounding of the trumpet by the second angel cannot be found, than these historical events, that took place shortly after John's heavenly vision, and its recording in the book of Revelation.
With the sounding of the trumpet by the third angel, the vision of John continued. He saw a great, burning star falling from heaven upon a third part of the fresh-water rivers, and springs of the earth, causing them to become bitter-tasting, which resulted in the death of many men. The falling star was given the name of, or had the characteristics of, Wormwood, which was a type of aromatic plant yielding a dark green, bitter oil, amd when ingested by mankind in its undiluted form, was lethal (See Deut. 29:18; Prov. 5:4; Jer. 9:15; 23:15). Looking back at symbolism found in this letter, we know that a "Star" refers to powerful, conspicuous male leaders holding prominent religious or secular positions. Since we know such a one did not appear from the religions sector, this great, blazing star must, then, refer to some strong and mighty leader, that suddenly appears in a threatening, war-like manner.
Under the first and second trumpet blasts, the symbolism, with great probability, referred to the Gothic rebels and their land invasion under the leadership of Alaric, and the seafaring Vandal warriors led by Genseric. Both of these warring invasions brought severe devastation to the economic wealth of the Roman Empire, and a tremendous weakening of its worldly influence and military power. At this time in history, the Empire was still reeling from the naval defeat, and pillaging, by the Vandals, and was extremely weak and vulnerable to external threats by other militant nations. No doubt the prophetic symbolism of the third angel's trumpet sounding would result in the continued downfall of the Roman Empire by some strong, militant nation that was led by mighty leader. That leader would be compared to a bright, flaming star which fell from the heavens, destroying much of the fresh water produced from the streams and springs of the earth.
The exact date is debated, but somewhere between the years 428 and 440, Rome was again invaded - this time by Attila, the mighty military leader of the Hungarian nation, known as the Huns. Surviving a bloody battle, which resulted in the death of over two hundred warriors at the River Marne, the Huns descended over the Alpine Mountains, from which fresh snow-melted water irrigated at least a third part of the Italian peninsula. Attila led the Huns across the Po River, and marched, with practically no resistance, through many Italian towns and into the capital city of Rome. Indeed the bitter star, symbolically called Wormwood, refers to Attila and his warring band of barbarous Huns, who brought devastation and destruction to at least a third part of the Italian nation. Accepting lucrative bribes from the Roman government, the Huns and their leader, returned and retired in the Hungarian nation.
History tells us that at the death of Attila, his followers buried his bones in the bed of the Danube River, and there they forever remained. As a mighty falling star burns up and disappears, so did this leader of the Huns. But the destruction to the Roman Empire caused by this leader, and his warriors, seemed to be irreparable. Three devastating blows had been struck against this once-mighty nation by the Goths, Vandals, and the Huns, and the weakened empire appeared ready to fall. These defeating invasions occurred in the approximate years of 409, 422, and 440, respectively, severely weakened the Roman Empire, and it was now, seemingly, ready to fall.
As the fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and its prophecy was revealed, the scene of historically fulfilling events once again changes. Here we find a third part of the sun, moon, and stars smitten, resulting in symbolic darkness covering a third of the land. Again, the symbolic charts tell us that the sun represents a supreme ruler, and the moon and stars represent his lesser governmental dignitaries, leaders and aides. Darkness is a sure symbol of extreme calamity and affliction. Indeed, with the complete overthrow of the Roman emperor, and his supporters, a period of "darkness" would follow - intellectual, cultural, and moral decay would be the ultimate result.
Again, history reveals, what seems to be, the literal fulfillment of the prophecy revealed at the trumpet sounding of the fourth angel. Having been severely weakened by previous invasions, the Roman Empire was extremely vulnerable. Its defenseless nature was noticed by the king of a northern European race, known as the Heruli people. The king's name was Odoacer. In the year A.D. 476, this king led his armies into Rome, and with little military effort, besieged and captured the helpless city, and the leaders of its devastated, unguarded empire. The feeble emperor of the Roman Empire at that time was Augustulus. He was deposed, and the Roman Senate, that had legislated this nation for over twelve hundred years, was expelled from its chambers. This once mighty power crumbled and fell, never to rise again to its worldly status.
The fall of Rome gave way to a period historians refer to as the "Dark Ages," a period when the minds of men and women, throughout the known world, were blinded by the darkness of both intellectual and spiritual depravity. For many years to come, a great majority of the individual churches of Christ gradually fell into apostasy. The gospel light of eternal salvation, that began to shine brightly when the church was established on the Day of Pentecost following the crucifixion of Christ Jesus, was now reduced to only a feeble glimmer of light seen, and believed, by only a few human souls.
Verse 13 tells us that, in this vision, John also witnessed an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound! The proclamation of this messenger of God was to pronounce an extremely fearful calamity on all those inhabiting of the earth. This seemingly broad application does not translate to mean all people of the entire world, but that known to the apostle John, which was the geographical area primarily known as the Roman Empire. The repetition of the word "woe" is to show the extreme nature of this pronouncement. To this point in John's Revelation record, only four angels have sounded their trumpets. This text tells us that the "woes" announced here will be revealed with the sounding of the trumpet of the remaining three angels.