The Barbarians and the Trumpets of Revelation: Expected by the Churches ... Believed by Barbarians
The Barbarians knew “They” were the Judgment(s) of God. Genseric himself, King of the Vandels, though in a very advanced age, still commanded in person the most important expeditions. His designs were concealed with impenetrable secrecy, till the moment that he hoisted sail. When he was asked by his pilot what course he should steer, his answer is instructive:
Leave the determination to the winds (replied the Barbarian, with pious arrogance:) They will transport us to the guilty coast, whose inhabitants have provoked the divine justice…”
Note his language: "guilty coast" and "the divine justice". Divine justice and guilt as anticipated in the deterioration of the Churches (Pergamos, Thyatira, and the dead Church of Sardis), predicted in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
He is by no means the only Barbarian chieftain who understood and accepted the fact he was appointed to bring the Judgment of the Lord upon the Roman world and its Christianity. Attila the Hun relished the title “The Scourge of God”. Alaric the Goth saw himself as the avatar of God’s vengeance upon the Roman world.
The Empire is thoroughly engaged in a war for its very existence. The infrastructure of the Roman world is challenged, with impoverishment growing steadily everywhere. Increasing chaos has become the only real constant in life. With nothing predictable, economy slows to a halt. Even farming throughout the Empire is meager since the odds that any one field of grain will see armies harvesting it… or trampling it, is greater than at any time in Roman history.
All of this bloody sea imagery is reminiscent of the judgment upon Nile in the Exodus history. However, as it was then, so now: the wrath of the Triune God is just getting started. [Go to Revelation page]
The Third Trumpet Sounds … Attila the Hun and the Hun Empire
And the third angel of Revelation sounds his Trumpet - a sign of Regal Judgment by the One Who Sits in the Temple of God in Revelation 1, namely Jesus Christ the Great Melchizedek. We are told that the Trumpet's Judgment brings the fall from heaven of a great power...
... a 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."– Rev. 8: 10- 11.
Notice how the "star" imagery "falls from heaven"... like Satan. Jesus said as much: "And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven..." - Luke 10: 18
Note the direct comparison we can make to the "falling": 1) Satan falls from heaven 2) So do evil men and movements "fall from heaven" (meaning, they are given authority from heaven to bring Judgment - Romans 13: 1); 3) They are raised up by Satan, but sent by God:
The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.- Psa. 110:5
The star imagery is clearly associated with angels in Revelation 1: 20. There, we saw that when God identifies angelic activity with “kingdoms” in view, they are designated “stars”. So it was in that chapter, pointing to the Churches distinguishing 7 distinct eras of God’s Kingdom on earth and its progressive march through history.
So it is here. Except it involves a “fallen angel”. Since one third of the angels fell with Satan, this may reference one of the hierarchy of his “chain of command”, so to speak. It may actually reference him (cf. Daniel 10:13,20 where the malevolent angel is properly referenced as שַׂר – [Hbr: “sar”, prince, chief, ruler, officer], personally, but the result is the same … destruction of whole kingdoms.
However, the star invests itself in a POWER … a government in the human sphere, as clearly as God declared of Babylon and Tyre (cf. Ezekiel 28: 2-19, in verse 2 a Hebrew synonym for Sar is used of Satan and his invested presence in the king of Tyre : נָגִיד - ruler, prince.)
Words fail to describe what God brought upon Europe in the work of the “Scourge of God” – Attila the Hun. Tradition has it, he heard this expression from a monk, who cursed him and hated him. However, mere monks don’t have a propaganda mill sufficient for widespread success of “buzz” this effective.
No. The phrase "Scourge of God" effectively “caught on” because it was already spreading among the masses via its use in the churches. The monk was quite probably only repeating what was commonly believed… and Attila enjoyed it.
In other words, a guilty people KNEW their time had arrived. Cognizance of the arrival of God’s Judgment upon the guilty has a tendency to either “harden” the heart (cf. Mark 12:12), break it in despair (cf. Matt. 27: 3-5) or make it cry out to God for help (Psalm. 40: 12-17), realizing there is no other option (cf. Psalm. 71: 10-16).
Attila’s army of the Huns roared out of the eastern domains of the Volga with over half a million soldiers to establish the short-lived Hun Empire. An indication of the ferocity and terror of the Huns is found in the fact that the other Barbarians, so terrifying to Europe, moved into the Roman domains FLEEING THE HUNS.
The falling of a great star from heaven is used of a great authority (like Satan, for instance, in a comparison to lightning falling from heaven). Stars are used of authorities, especially God’s people, and other symbols from the heavenly domain. Antiochus IV was said to exalt himself… and Scripture speaks of him... “it cast down some of the host and of the stars” in Daniel 8:10.
The sequence of events brings us to the only candidate for the great star here. It is interesting to note that all of Europe anticipated more fearful judgments ahead (because of the Judgments of the Revelation). Attila knew and used this anxiety and anticipation:
It is obvious enough why he styled himself “By the Grace of God, King of the Huns and Goths”… [Attila the Hun was motivated by] a burning desire of turning to his purpose the legends and forebodings which then were universally spread throughout the Roman Empire, and must have been well known to the watchful and ruthless Hun Attila. (Delbruck, Hans. The Barbarian Invasions, History of the Art of War, Vol. II. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), p. 286.)
Note the secular historian's language: "turning to his purpose the legends and forebodings which then were universally spread throughout the Roman Empire,
It is to be noted that all of Christian Europe expected another, greater Judgment. It was the case that the Book of the Revelation’s message was known and was now expected to confirm yet another greater Judgment. Attila and his Huns would not disappoint them. [Go to Revelation "Library" offer page] Or... [Go to Revelation page]
Historical Markers ... Waters of Europe are Poisoned by Years of Bloodshed
But, the damage to the waters (of Europe) as a bitter "Wormwood" are excellent historical markers:
The Romans knew little about the Huns until they appeared on the banks of the Danube. Edward Gibbon, the author of the classic, authoritative history, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire tells us:
...the Huns were masters of the great river. Being experts of navigation on Russia’s great rivers, they had no problem decimating the regions of the Danube, Rhine, and Po river systems.
Those who “smile” at the historicist position, imagining that such descriptions are exaggerations to make the text “fit” the history, usually are quite unfamiliar with the extensive history themselves. Note the following description:
The Illyrian frontier was covered by a line of castles and fortresses; and though the greatest part of them consisted only of a single tower, with a small garrison, they were commonly sufficient to repel or to intercept, the inroads of an enemy, who was ignorant of the art, and impatient of the delay, of a regular siege. But these slight obstacles were instantly swept away by the inundation of the Huns.
They destroyed, with fire and sword, the populous cities of Sirmium and Singidunum, of Ratiaria and Marcianopolis, of Naisus, and Sardica; where every circumstance of the discipline of the people, and the construction of the buildings had been gradually adapted to the sole purpose of defense. The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles from the Euxine [Black Sea, ed. note] to the Hadriatic , was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolate, by the myriads of Barbarians whom Attila led into the field…. But, the troops which had been sent against Genseric, were hastily recalled from Sicily; the garrisons, on the side of Persia, were exhausted; and a military force was collected in Europe, formidable by their arms and numbers, if the generals had understood the science of command, and their soldiers the duty of obedience. The armies of the Eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements; and the progress of Attila may be traced by the fields of battle. The two former, on the banks of the Utus, and under the walls of Marcianopolis, were fourth in the extensive plains between the Danube and Mount Haemus. As the Romans were pressed by a victorious enemy, they gradually, and unskillfully, retired towards the Chersonnesus of Thrace; and that narrow peninsula, the last extremity of the land, was marked by their third, and irreparable, defeat. By the destruction of this army, Attila acquired the indisputable possession of the field. From the Hellespont to Thermopylae, and the suburbs of Constantinople, he ravaged, without resistance, and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia. Heraclea and Hadrianople might, perhaps, escape this dreadful irruption of the Huns; but the worst, the most expressive of total extirpation and erasure, are applied to the calamities which they inflicted on seventy cities of the Eastern empire. Theodosius, his court, and the unwarlike people, were protected by the walls of Constantinople; but those walls had been shaken by a recent earthquake, and the fall of fifty-eight towers had opened a large and tremendous breach. The damage indeed was speedily repaired; but this accident was aggravated by a superstitious fear, that Heaven itself had delivered the Imperial city to the shepherds of Scythia, who were strangers to the laws, the language, and the religion, of the Romans. -Gibbon, Decline and Fall, vol. III, p. 151 -152. (Nineteenth century edition).
The Huns shed so much blood that the waters were thoroughly polluted with bodies and blood. Just one account of ONE BATTLE (Catalaunian Plains) describes in detail the damage done to the streams and rivers around the battlefield:
And although the situation was itself fearful, yet the presence of the king dispelled anxiety and hesitation. Hand to hand they clashed in battle, and the fight grew fierce, confused, monstrous, unrelenting – a fight whose like no ancient time has ever recorded. There were such deeds done that a brave man who missed this marvelous spectacle could not hope to see anything so wonderful all his life long. For if we may believe our elders, a brook flowing between low banks through the plain was greatly increased by blood from the wounds of the slain. Those whose wounds drove them to slake their parching thirst drank water mingled with gore. In their wretched plight they were forced to drink what they thought was the blood they had poured out from their own wounds. -Jordanes, History of the Goths. Chap. 38. Mierow’s Translation. Cited by Davis, William S., Readings in Ancient History: II. Rome and the West. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1913) p. 324.
This battle in 451 AD, though decisive in saving what was left of the Roman Empire, was not anywhere near the size or scope of the damage done by the Huns in the Danube, Rhine, or Po river areas. The Wormwood – bitter, toxic pollution – as prophesied, marks the utter pollution which dead bodies contribute to the environment. However, the deaths and refuse of horses and other animals, adds more organic debris to the landscape. The above cited battle records Attila piling up huge mounds of horse dung as battlements.
Attila was stopped by an alliance of Goths and Romans under Aetius and Theodoric in 451. The ravages of Attila comprised extensive lands of the Empire. Again, a large portion of the river systems and streams were affected by the wars throughout the east, central Europe and the West.
Such carnage is again put in terms of “one third” of the waters. The usage again appears to be judicial. The trees, the sea, the waters, all see a third of them struck. Three thirds of Europe (all of it!) has now been struck with severity by God’s wrath in three judgments.