Sound the alarm! Prepare for battle! Trumpets mean war and in this case it starts with four specific invasions (of the West).
The opening of the seventh seal leads to seven trumpets. We see a similar pattern in the book of Joshua where they marched once every day around Jericho but on the seventh day they encompassed the city seven times. They also blew seven trumpets. The Book of Joshua must be in some measure a foreshadowing of this apocalypse we are now studying.
The four trumpets mark the definitive four major incursions of the surrounding barbarian (as the Romans liked to call them) nations. The first, the Goths, with their scorched earth policy. Secondly, the Vandals, who, apart from their general wrecking policy, for which they are still famed today, also, amazingly, defeated the mighty Roman navy in the Mediterranean Sea. Next, the third trumpet denotes the invasions of the Huns. Even if this is not all very familiar history to you, you will of course recognise the name Attila. The rivers of Europe were both literally and figuratively turned to blood at his hands. Finally, the Germanic tribes of the Heruli came on the scene and finished the Western portion of the empire, which at this time represented about one third of the total.
The first question here is, if Constantine brought an end to Christian persecution throughout the Roman empire then why is God still angry at them? Sadly the answer is that it is those who call themselves God’s people who are now the ones offending God so deeply. The bones of them that were martyred had been carefully boxed, displayed and were being touched, kissed and worshipped. These ‘saints’ were now the ones to whom prayer and devotion was being directed. The Church (so called) under Constantine now had possession of the old pagan temples, had sewn for themselves sacred priestly vestments and adorned both with a potent mixture of pagan symbols and biblical imagery. Christians were divided into two classes – the clergy (the elitist priest class) and the laity (ordinary people). ‘Sun’ day worship and a whole raft of ancient and modern pagan observances and festivals were being incorporated into the Church. Some believers had formed into separate groups and some who were entangled with the now idolatrous institutional Church sought for reform. The real picture is of course always mixed but as an ‘institution’ the Church had now declined into what even ancient Judah, with all its faults, had gotten free of following the Babylonian captivity; Christianised Rome now stank with idolatry.
This rapid succession of barbarian invasions marked the second earthquake moment in the history of the Roman world – the end of the Western part of the empire. The sixth seal – from Constantine to the division of the empire – was the first earthquake event remember. There are two other earthquakes to come in Revelation but these will occur some considerable way along the path from here.
This history of the barbarian invasions is very well known and documented so I don’t think I need to labour those details but we may just need a reminder again of the prophetic language that describes these invasions. In fact, many secular historians actually use the very language of the apocalypse themselves when describing the devastating storms that came from the North. Here is some similar metaphorical language used in Isaiah concerning the Lord’s intention to use the Assyrian nation to bring judgement upon Israel…
Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.