The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
The breaking up of the Western Empire begins. The Goths, now mingled in the north and centre of the Empire, and tolerated under Theodosius, rise up after his death. Alaric, their leader, turns his people to the West, and the storm of invasion breaks upon Rome.
After the Sixth Seal the empire is divided into East and West, and ultimately into three parts as the middle area between them has been settled by the Goths. With the death of the emperor Theodosius in the east, whose reign saw the final eclipse of the Roman pagan worship, the Goths under Alaric invade the Western Empire (the “third part”). Rome is sacked for the first time in 1000 years. This is the first wave of the barbarian hordes who finally brought the Western Empire to an end.
The First Trumpet describes the invasion of the Goths.
The first wave of the Barbarian invasions of Rome was the Goths.
The era is to be one of great commotions and upheavals, voices and fearful sights and sounds of war. The storm of destruction which has been held back under the Sixth Seal prepares to burst upon the empire.
Hail storms come from the North in Europe, just as they do from the South in New Zealand. The Goths originated from the north of the Empire. The image is of fire and storm and bloodshed. The “Gothic conflagration” as it was called, left a burnt destruction in its path. This reference to the burning of the trees and green grass will contrast with the events of the Fifth Trumpet in which there was an express indication that the same would not be harmed.
Note that in each of the first four Trumpets the effect is described as coming upon “the third part”. This is one of the things that groups these first four Trumpet visions. This is likely a reference to the fact that at the beginning of these trumpets the empire was divided into three parts: the West, the East and the Gothic-occupied middle (an area long recognised as a separate prefecture, which changed hands repeatedly between the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire). The subject of the first four Trumpets is the Western “third” of the old Empire at this time.
As previously seen, the Barbarians became an increasing threat in the century between Constantine and Theodosius but were held at bay until Theodosius’ death. With his death the Empire was finally permanently divided into Eastern and Western Empires. Great battles fought against the Barbarians during the reigns of Valens etc. prepared the way for the later invasions.
In the decades just before the final overwhelming invasions, the Barbarian threat was already being likened to the sounding of war trumpets throughout the Empire.
After Theodosius and the division of the Empire into East and West, the Western line of emperors continues through the invasions until the last is deposed. Romulus Augustus, ironically named after Romulus the founder of Rome and Augustus the founder of the Empire, is the last.
We are again reminded here by the historians of the “restraining” of the four winds up to the time of Theodosius’ death, and the brief period of quietness or silence at the opening of the Seventh Seal and before the sounding of the First Trumpet.
1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
Historians describe the character of the period of the Barbarian invasions as one of extreme calamity and turmoil.
Attila the Hun, who comes under the subject of the Third Trumpet, was called “The Scourge of God”.
The historian notes that contemporary authors describing the invasions and turmoil liken their effect to that of earthquakes, fires and storms. It is not surprising that the prophecies also use such symbols and imagery to describe them.
Here the first three successive historical devastations are named under their barbarian leaders: Alaric the Goth, Genseric the Vandal, and Attila the Hun. These correspond to the first Three Trumpets in order.
Again, the three invasions of Goths, Vandals and Huns in order under their leaders are well known and defined in history.
The Barbarian waves of invasion which brought about the final fall of the Western Empire comprise a well-defined and important era, worthy of being the subject of the first four Trumpets.
With the sounding of the First Trumpet, the hail storm of fire and bloodshed from the North is released.
The respect of the Goths for Theodosius had restrained them from destroying the Empire during his reign.
The initial invasion is likened to a storm upon the West.
The period begins with the first conquest of Rome. Note the reference to the “seven hilled city”—a common description of Rome and one used in Revelation also.
Revelation 17:9, 18
9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Here again in this quote (see next slide also) the historians use “stormlike” imagery, and note the temporary restraining and peace during Theodosius reign, though his granting of land between East and West prepared them a base for the later invasions.
The sacking of Rome, like a thunderstorm, was a shock and a foreshadowing of the fall of the whole Western Empire. Again as the prophecy indicated, there would be the “thunderings and lightnings” of war.
The invasion of the Goths and other barbarians at this time came in two main thrusts: from their newly occupied lands and from the North.
This contemporary historian witnessed the invasions himself and likened them to a storm of hail.
The invasion was a serious blow to the Empire and the beginning of its fall.
Note the reference to fire as the character of the invasion.
Again, as the vision indicates, there was a scorched earth character to the storm of invasion, leaving behind a “desert”.
Hail and fire mingled with blood, and all the trees and the green grass were burnt up.
This quote from Gibbon about the sacking of Rome has an interesting reference to the great Gothic trumpets which sounded the fall of the Great City for the first time in over a thousand years – the sounding of the First Trumpet is echoed in the sounding of the Gothic trumpets of war.
“The Gothic conflagration” is certainly an appropriate phrase for a storm of fire and blood.