- Christogenea Internet Radio
On the Revelation of Yahshua Christ, Part 11: The Fall of an Empire
Describing the sealing of the hundred and forty four thousand unsoiled saints of the tribes of Israel as The Assurance of God in Revelation chapter 7, we also saw that there was a much greater assurance, that an innumerable multitude “from all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” would also be preserved, although they would first wash their garments in the blood of the Lamb, in what was described as a great tribulation. It is this latter group which is depicted as having made the exclamation that “Salvation is with our God sitting upon the throne and with the Lamb”, and therefore although they may not have been assigned the same special status as the hundred and forty four thousand who were sealed, they are nevertheless saved, in the eternal sense of the word as it is used in Scripture.
One common practice of many so-called pastors or theologians is to take a small portion of a prophecy, remove it from its original context, and apply it in some manner which suits themselves. Often by doing so they build entire sects around their own sick delusions. So there have been many fabulous theories proposed concerning the hundred and forty four thousand of the tribes of Israel who are sealed in Revelation chapter 7, and anyone who has ever promoted any of them should never be taken seriously about anything else which they may say about Scripture. This is because rather frequently men would prefer to write their own bible rather than seek to understand the Bible as it was written. When they do that, through their wild interpretations of Scripture they are actually announcing a Gospel which is contrary to the Gospel of Christ.
So it is here with the hundred and forty four thousand. Men want to apply it to themselves today, and they invent ways to do that whereby they may always presume for themselves to be included in that number. Then some of them even discard the innumerable multitude, claiming that only a hundred and forty four thousand will be saved. Often, such men use their private interpretations to ingratiate anyone who would listen to them, and attempt to gain followers by convincing them that they are also included in the special group. The so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses” cult was built on such a heresy, and today it claims to have nearly nine million members. So it is apparent that they perceive the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven to be like some sort of lottery, a prize which not even two percent of them could ever attain, if their teaching is correct. There are many other modern sects with similar beliefs concerning the sealing of the saints in Revelation chapter 7. Perhaps a hundred and forty four thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses will one day have to fight it out with a hundred and forty four thousand Mormons.
But the truth is that the sealing of the hundred and forty four thousand cannot be removed from the context in which Yahshua Christ Himself had placed it, as it relates to the fall of the Roman Empire. The visions which John had seen from the beginning of Revelation chapter 4 relate one consistent and unbroken narrative describing a series of related events or circumstances represented by the opening of the seven seals, and there is no break in the context of any of them through the opening of the seventh seal at the beginning of Revelation chapter 8, wherein there are seven trumpets which sound in succession through the end of Revelation chapter 11.
So in Revelation chapter 6 the various stages of the rise and fall of the Roman empire is described in the vision of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and at the end of the chapter the great men of the earth are depicted as preferring death over the suffering which they are about to face. So with the beginning of chapter 7 the context is not broken, where that judgement is delayed while the one hundred and forty four thousand are assured preservation, and it is made evident that an innumerable multitude would die in that same suffering and tribulation. After the sixth seal was opened and the wrath of Yahweh was about to come upon the earth, at the beginning of chapter 7 where the sealing of the hundred and forty four thousand had begun the angels were told: “Do not do wrong to the earth nor to the sea nor to the trees, until we should seal the servants of our God upon their foreheads!”
There we may interpret the sea as the mass of the world’s people, and the trees as the races of men in a sort of Hebrew parallelism. But in any event, it is clearly represented that the servants of God were men from among the tribes of Israel who were within the Roman Empire as it was about to fall, and for that reason the description of their having been sealed informs us of their presence, their identity, and the fact that Yahweh God would preserve them from the harm which was to come upon the earth. Then in chapter 8, after the sealing of the tribes, the seventh seal is opened and the focus returns once again to describing the tribulation which is to come upon the Empire, the things which the men at the end of chapter 6 were portrayed as having feared. For any interpreter to remove the sealing of the tribes and the tribulation of the innumerable multitude from this context and interpret it in some other way is patently dishonest.
So the act of the sealing of the tribes assured John and the readers of the Revelation that a hundred and forty four thousand of the faithful of Israel were safeguarded by Yahweh God from the tribulation which was about to come upon the empire, while an innumerable multitude of others who would die in that tribulation would also be saved. But in the context in which these men are sealed, they are alive and well and evidently dwelling within the empire as Christians at the time of the sealing. However that evidence is not fully provided until certain events which are prophesied much later, in Revelation chapter 14. There they are described as being with Christ, and it says of them in part that “4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins…” and “These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” Then again: “5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” In those statements it is evident that they lived in this world as Christians, and that they are all men, and not women. That is not a negative reflection on women, as these hundred and forty four thousand were chosen for a particular purpose and women were not counted in that manner in Israel. We shall discuss that subject further in our commentary on Revelation chapter 14.
However we are not quite finished addressing the heresies surrounding Revelation chapter 7. There are many more so-called pastors and theologians who are found to be caught up in an even more grievous error concerning the greater assurance of Revelation chapter 7, that an innumerable multitude “from all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” would also attain the salvation of Christ, and they claim that statement includes all of the races of the world. But rather, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were promised that their seed, their offspring, would become an innumerable multitude, would become many nations, and would ultimately inherit the earth. So if we seek an honest interpretation of the words of Christ, who came to fulfill those very promises, then where we read “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” it is not referring to all of the nations, tribes, people and tongues on the planet, as we know it today. Rather, it is referring to all of the nations, tribes, people and tongues of His promises! In Isaiah chapter 43, Yahweh God Himself revealed that He had given up others of the Genesis 10 nations for the ultimate benefit of the children of Israel. In the history of that same period, it is evident that those particular nations which He had given up were overrun by another race, the Nubians, a race which did not have its origin with the sons of Noah.
The Revelation itself declares its purpose in its very first verse where in reference to God it says that it is intended “to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass”. Yet men cannot choose to serve God, and it is pretentious for any man to call or even to consider himself to be a servant of God. Rather, God does the choosing as Christ had told His apostles, in John chapter 15, “16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you…” However He has also informed us on many occasions as to whom He had chosen. The choosing of the children of Israel collectively to be the servants of God was attested many times in Isaiah, even after they were taken into captivity, and often where it is attested the context relates that choosing to the salvation and redemption of Israel which is in Christ. So we read, for example, in Isaiah chapter 41: “8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. 9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.” A little further on we read: “14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” Then once again, in chapter 44: “1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: 2 Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.” The word Jesurun means upright one, and Yahweh considers the children of Israel to be upright, even if He also called them a worm in their fallen state of captivity for their sins. So at the end of the same chapter He makes another assurance to Israel and says: “26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.” He describes Himself exclusively as the Savior and Redeemer of the children of Israel and never of any of the other races.
References to Israel as the servant of Yahweh are found throughout the last twenty-six chapters of Isaiah. The children of Israel, as it is described in those same chapters as well as in the books of the other prophets, were sent off into captivity for tribulation as punishment for their sins. The Word of Yahweh in Amos chapter 3, calls Israel to “1 Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, 2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Sealing one hundred and forty four thousand from among the tribes of Israel, those who were unsoiled in the world of pagan Rome, it should be fully evident that the focus of the promises of God has not changed.
As the Gospel account attests, in Luke chapter 1, and as Paul attests in Romans chapter 15, Christ came to fulfill the promises made to the fathers. Israel is the servant of God in the words of Mary, the mother of Christ, who described His purpose where it is recorded in Luke chapter 1 that she had said, in part: “54 He has come to the aid of His servant Israel, to call mercy into remembrance, 55 just as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring for the age.” Accepting anyone of any other race contradicts those promises, rather than fulfilling them. If we are to understand the Scriptures within the bounds of the promises which Yahweh God had made to the fathers, then we must interpret “all nations” as a reference to all of the nations of His promises, and not to all of any race whatsoever upon the entire planet.
The Revelation reveals what Yahweh has willed to befall the children of Israel, who had been sent off into seven times of punishment from approximately 743 BC to 585 BC. When Christ came to work His act of redemption, it was only about 772 years after that seven times of punishment had begun, as the seven times may be estimated to be about 2,520 years. So there were nearly 1,750 years left under which they were destined to suffer. This is found in readings and interpretations of Leviticus chapter 26, Daniel chapter 7 and Revelation chapter 13, with exegetical support from Deuteronomy and Ezekiel. We shall not expound on it here, but rather wait for our commentary on Revelation chapter 13. Yahshua Christ had come to relieve the children of Israel of the condemnation for which they were guilty under the law, so in reference to Him we read in Isaiah chapter 56 “5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” But that does not erase the balance of the 2,520 year period of Israel’s punishment.
The fact that Yahweh is still punishing the children of Israel was stated by Paul of Tarsus in Hebrews chapter 12 where he wrote “7 You endure discipline; as sons Yahweh engages with you. For what is a son whom a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which you all have become partakers, then you are bastards, and not sons.” The apostle Peter corroborates this where he wrote in chapter 4 of his first epistle: “15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” The Revelation is a prophecy of that very judgment of the children of Israel by Yahshua Christ Himself.
While any and all people may suffer, only the children of Israel are tried and punished for their own correction, as we read in Amos chapter 3, and as it is also promised in Jeremiah chapter 30. There the word of Yahweh says: “11 For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” That promise is repeated in Jeremiah chapter 46, where we also see that Israel remains the servant of God even in their time of punishment: “28 Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.”
Our interpretation of the Revelation of Yahshua Christ is in accordance with all of the words of the prophets and all of the promises which Yahweh God had made to the fathers and the children of Israel. This historical interpretation of the Revelation, beginning in these chapters with the description of the fall of the Roman Empire, will indeed hold firm, and become even more firm, as we proceed through the chapters to come, all the way to Revelation chapter 18. In Revelation chapter 19 there is the fall of mystery Babylon and the promised return of Christ, and Revelation chapter 20 describes the circumstances under which that return would happen. Concerning those chapters, we cannot be certain of the exact method of fulfillment, because even with them we cannot see the future clearly.
Once the certainty of our interpretation of the Revelation of Yahshua Christ is realized, we see that the hand of Yahweh in the world is indeed upon the White Christian nations, and by that, we know the identity of the true children of Yahweh. This is especially evident in the prophets, such as in Daniel chapter 2 and the series of beast empires of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, which we discussed in relation to Revelation chapter 6. White Europeans having become Christians, yet suffering all of these things which are prophesied in the Revelation, are indeed the servants of God because the experience of their own history proves that Yahweh God is true and has kept his Word and His promises recorded in the books of the prophets. But the people whom we know today as Jews have always been His enemies, and they have never been His people. Of course, the many proofs of that lie elsewhere, and we shall discuss some of them in our commentary on Revelation chapter 12.
So Revelation chapter 6 concluded with the fourth horseman, riding the pale or green horse, which we have identified with the sickness of decay and corruption in ancient Rome. Then with the fifth seal we saw the saints under the altar cry out for justice. These must be a reference to the Christian martyrs of the Roman-era persecutions, as they were slain on account of “the Word of God and for the testimony which they held”, which is the Gospel of Christ. Since they were crying for vengeance, then Rome must be the subject of that vengeance, which was momentarily suspended so that the hundred and forty four thousand would be sealed. Now the execution of that vengeance is the subject of the prophecy of Revelation chapter 8.
With the sixth seal we saw the great men of the empire wishing that they had a safe haven in which to hide from the judgement and wrath of Yahweh which was about to befall them. The “stars of heaven” of 6:13 must be the Germanic invaders, as the children of Israel are also referred to as the “stars of heaven” in the Old Testament. The most obvious example is in Judges chapter 5 in the song of Deborah where she wrote of Israel that “They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera”, who was the leader of the Canaanites. So now we commence with that point, after the momentary suspension for the sealing of the tribes has elapsed. Therefore having the assurance of God concerning the hundred and forty four thousand, there is also an assurance that an innumerable multitude of the nations of Israel who are to die in these tribulations will nevertheless be preserved. As we commence with Revelation chapter 8 the vision prophecies of the opening of the seventh seal of the scroll of Revelation chapter 5, and we find that it is comprised of seven trumpets:
VIII 1 And when He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
The Greek word ἡμιώριον, or more commonly, ἡμιωρία, signifies half of a ὥρα or hour. The word ὥρα is a term which was often used in a much more general sense than our English word hour. It could mean part of a year, such as a season, or part of a day. Yet the Hellenistic Greeks divided the daylight period into twelve portions, which they also called hours, and therefore half an hour is the most common and most likely the most correct interpretation.
This period of silence followed by a description of the prayers of the saints evokes the words of Asaph, a prophet of the captivity, in the 35th Psalm: “1 Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. 2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. 3 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.” Perhaps we may describe this period of silence as the Silence of the Lamb, a time whereupon judgment is inevitable, and no man may justly protest or resist the inevitable wrath of God.
2 And I saw seven messengers who stood before Yahweh, and they [A has “He”, but in the passive which is an error] had given to them [or better, “and to them had been given”] seven trumpets. 3 And another messenger having a golden censor came and stood upon the altar, and much incense had been given to him, that he may offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints ascended from the hand of the messenger before Yahweh.
Evidently there would be a need for much incense as there must be many prayers. The words evoke those of the 141st Psalm, which is attributed to David: “1 LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. 2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Yahweh does indeed hear the prayers of all of His people, however they are not always answered immediately, as we read in the 102nd Psalm: “16 When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. 17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.” So the prayers of the saints in modern times shall certainly be answered when Christ returns, as it is described in Revelation chapter 19.
Like the first six of the seven seals, these seven trumpets of which the seventh seal is comprised shall each represent some circumstance or event in the history of the children of Israel. The first four seals represented each of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and while each had forebode patterns of events that befell the Roman Empire, they also described the circumstances to which its people were subject. The fifth seal represented the circumstances of those who were martyred for the testimony of Christ, and the sixth seal represented the last days of the empire, the passing of its once-great government and institutions, and the desire of its chief men and rulers to avoid the coming judgment, even if in order to do so they had to die quickly.
So the first six seals, even if we only count from the time of the expansion of the empire beyond the shores of Italy, had covered a period of at least seven hundred years, and shall be overlapped somewhat by events prophesied in the seven trumpets which are contained in this last seal. But now the seven trumpets will prophesy of events which shall take at least as long to unfold, and the seventh trumpet will not sound until the events prophesied in Revelation chapter 11. So we see one group of seven trumpets nested within the seventh of the first group of seven seals. The last three of these trumpets represent three woes, and the fulfillment of two of them is more explicit than the third. We are only told of the third woe, towards the end of chapter 11, that it “comes quickly!” But as we hope to elucidate, each of chapters 12 through 14 are a digression revealing other aspects of the future, as well as some aspects of the past, from John’s perspective. So as we hope to explain more thoroughly later in this commentary, the tribulations of the third woe are not revealed until Revelation chapter 15, where we see a description of seven vials, in keeping with this same pattern of nested groups of seven. So while it is not stated explicitly, the seven vials are indeed the third of the three woes, that of the seventh trumpet.
5 And the messenger took [A has “received”] the censer and filled it from of the fire of the altar and cast it into the earth, and there were thunders and noises and lightnings and an earthquake.
The Codex Alexandrinus (A) has “thunders and lightnings and noises”; the Majority Text manuscripts copied from Andreas of Caesareia have “noises [or voices] and thunders and lightnings”, and that is followed by the King James Version. Our text follows the Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the tradition manuscripts of the Majority Text.
The presence of thunder and lightning in nature, and the sudden damage often caused by lightning, should be a reminder to man that there are forces in the world more powerful than he is, and which are beyond his control. For that man should be humble and learn to fear God, in whose hand is both man and all of nature.
6 And the seven messengers who [א wants “who”] having the seven trumpets prepared them [the MT has “themselves”; the text follows א and A] in order that they may sound.
I understand that the language of our Christogenea translation is sometimes difficult. But the verb translated here as having is a present active plural participle, and it is accompanied with a masculine plural definite article, where it signifies those having or even the men – or in this case, the angels having. Whether it is ideal or not, I sought to represent every Greek word while also endeavoring to remain faithful to the meanings of the original words. The King James Version translates the same phrase, the article and the participle as if it were in the past tense, as “which had”. That sounds better in English but I tried not to change the tenses of verbs even if it made the English more difficult to read. However the aorist verbs are often a challenge to represent appropriately in English.
7 And the first [the manuscripts of the MT following Andreas of Caesareia insert “messenger”] sounded the trumpet, and there came hailstones and fire mixed with blood and it had been cast into the earth, and a third of the earth had been burnt, and a third of the trees had been burnt, and all the green grass had been burnt.
The Roman Empire had been threatened by the Germanic tribes for quite some time before its fall. Julius Caesar in his own description of the Gallic Wars had complained that the Germanic tribes were forever pushing west of the Rhine, where he saw them as a danger to Rome (i.e. 1:33). But the land held by the Romans south of the Danube or west of the Rhine was far more hospitable and fruitful than that of Central Europe or Asia. For example, where on one occasion Justinian had offered land in Thrace to two thousand families of certain Huns who had fled the Utigurs in the east, Procopius noted that they would “live much more comfortably” in the land of the Romans (History of the Wars 8.19.8).
Throughout the centuries of the Empire there were emperors who attempted to buy off the invading Germanic tribes. The examples are numerous. Augustus Caesar had offered many tribes land, or bribed their chieftains, in order to gain them as allies. In the third century Caracalla fought against and then bought off the Alamanni with a large sum. In the 4th century Constantine bribed the Vandals with the land of Pannonia, which they inhabited for quite some time before becoming restless once again. The emperor Justinian continued to bribe Germanic tribes as late as the 6th century.
Discussing Revelation chapter 6 and the invasions of Rome by the Goths and Vandals, the following events were mentioned, and here we shall elaborate a little further: With the anarchy of the 3rd century, the city of Rome itself began to lose its luster, and with Constantine in the early 4th century the capital was moved eastward. In 364 AD the empire was divided east and west, and this represents the beginning of the dissolution of the ten toes: the splitting of the original provinces of the empire as it existed under the first Caesars. The eastern portion would last another thousand years, however the west fell quickly. Later in the fourth century the Visigoths, after defeating the Romans in a large battle, were given leave to cross into the lands of the Empire. Eventually they were mistreated by Rome, and rebelled against the empire. Around 406 AD tribes from out of the Vandals, Alans and Suebi crossed the Rhine into Gaul and began to loot and pillage the empire, and take much of its lands in Gaul and Iberia, which were never recovered. The Visigoths at this same time raided Greece, and then they invaded Italy. At first the western empire attempted to buy off the Goths with a large sum of gold. Rome was then sacked by the Goths under Alaric in 410 AD.
During the years 433 to 453 AD arose the empire of the Huns under Attila and Bleda, who raided the Balkans, Gaul, and Italy, threatening both Constantinople and Rome. The Vandals then sacked Rome in 455 AD, an event which we commemorate with our modern use of the word vandalism. The Huns were settled in lands along the Danube which eventually became Hungary, but the name was used to describe Germanic tribes which were also formerly called Kimmerians, as Procopius attests at the beginning of Book 8, chapter 5 of his History of the Wars. The Huns did not disappear from Central Europe after the waning of their empire, as in that same book Procopius describes their invasions of Illyria and Greece, their participation in the wars in Africa and Italy, and also the offers made to some of them by Justinian of both money and land in Thrace (8.19.1-15). Elsewhere he mentions their presence both north of the Caucasus mountains, in the Crimea and in Italy. Throughout the writings of Procopius both the Huns and the Goths are said to have descended from the ancient Massagetae, the Scythians of Asia. In his description of Justinian’s war against the Persians, Procopius describes his payments of money to the ruler of the Lombards, and his receiving of troops for that endeavor, along with his use of three thousand cavalry as mercenaries from the Germanic tribe of the Heruli and “great numbers of Huns” (8.26.12-13).
Eventually the looting and the bribes were not sufficient for the Goths, who really wanted the fertile soil of Italy and the treasures of the empire for themselves, and so finally in 476 AD they took it, when the Gothic chieftain Odoacer declared himself ruler of Italy. Rome could no longer defend itself first because the empire was completely corrupt and decadent, but more importantly, as Daniel 2:43 attests, because there was little unity in the citizenry, which was now made up of people of diverse and mixed races. So in spite of the bribes, the Germanic tribes continued to pillage the empire and take parts of it for themselves, one way or another. The “hailstones and fire mixed with blood” mentioned here in verse 7 represent what befell the Romans on account of those tribes, but probably not the tribes themselves.
8 And the second messenger sounded the trumpet [א has “the second trumpet sounded”], and thus a great mountain burning with fire had been cast into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood 9 and a third [א inserts “part”, but the meaning is implied] of those creatures having souls of those [the MT wants "of those"; the text follows א and A] in the sea died, and a third of the ships had been destroyed.
The word sea is sometimes used as an allegory referring to the general mass of the world’s people, as we shall discuss further in relation to latter prophecies in the Revelation. But here we should take the reference to the sea literally, because it is mentioned along with ships. While the Vandals, along with the Goths, were indeed descended from the Israelites of the ancient Assyrian captivities, at this time it had been quite a long time in their history since they had ever been sailors or had any sort of maritime tradition.
Upon the invasion of Spain, the Vandals had taken the Balearic Islands off of the Spanish coast. From there, along with many of the Alans, they crossed into Africa, and Procopius stated that there were no Vandals left in Europe – or at least in those parts of Europe with which he was acquainted – referring to his own time, which was about a hundred years later (3.22.13-18). In Africa the Vandals eventually made a treaty with Rome, in 435 AD, dividing the coastline. Yet the Vandals still did not cease from their looting and pillaging of the Roman coasts of Africa and Sicily. In October of 439 AD, the Vandals under Gaiseric made a successful surprise attack on Carthage. He had his designs on both the city and the large port. They took the city and found a large Roman fleet lying in the harbor waiting for them. This was a devastating strategic mistake on the part of the Romans, to allow such a large supply of ships to fall into the hands of their enemies (Procopius, History of the Wars, 3.6.1-30).
The fall of Carthage to the Vandals greatly disturbed both the western and the eastern halves of the empire, as there was a large number of galleys and a great shipyard in Carthage, creating a Vandal fleet as great as the joint navies of both empires. That the Romans allowed for so many ships to be left in Carthage's port while the Vandals were so close by, must be one of the greatest errors of Roman history. The very next Spring, that of 440 AD, a vast fleet manned by Vandals and their allies, who consisted of Alans, Goths, Libyan Romans (Procopius, 3.16.3, 3.20.19) and Moors, had set out from Carthage for Sicily, which at the time was the principal supplier of oil and grain to Italy after the loss of North Africa. All the coastal towns were looted and Palermo was besieged. Ships heavily laden with plunder returned to Carthage. The powerful eastern imperial fleet responded by sailing into Sicilian waters in 441 AD, taking the Vandals by surprise. This was under the command of the Romano-Goth Areobindus, but a major invasion of the Balkans by the Huns and the threat of a Persian attack, forced him to take his fleet back home. After this Gaiseric allowed his fleets to continue plundering throughout the western Mediterranean Sea. The Vandals then plundered Rome itself in 455 AD.
The Western emperor Majorian was the last to try to hold onto the old Roman Empire against the invading barbarians. Gibbon said of Marjorian that he “presents the welcome discovery of a great and heroic character, such as sometimes arise, in a degenerate age, to vindicate the honor of the human species.” Marjorian planned a naval campaign against the Vandals to reconquer northern Africa in 461, but word of the preparations got out to the Vandals, who took the Roman fleet by surprise and destroyed it. A second naval expedition against the Vandals, sent by emperors Leo I and Anthemius, was also defeated, in 468 AD. The Vandals certainly do seem to meet the description of a “great mountain burning with fire” in their near-complete destruction of Roman navies and shipping.
10 And the third messenger sounded the trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, burning as a lamp, and it fell upon a third of the rivers and upon the springs of waters [A wants “and upon the springs of waters”], 11 and the name of the star is called Wormwood, and a third of the waters came to be [εἰς, or “into”, was purposely omitted here] wormwood and many of the men died from [A has “by”] the waters because they had been made bitter.
The first form of the word for wormwood here is ὁ Ἄψινθος, which with the definite article is a masculine singular proper noun from the common word ἀψίνθιον, from which is the second form of the word for wormwood here, which is not a proper noun but which is the feminine singular accusative case form ἄψινθον. The Codex Sinaiticus wants the article, and only has the latter common form in both places. According to Liddell & Scott, the Greek word ἀψίνθιον is primarily “wormwood, Artemisia Absinthium” but in some writings it was also used to describe the species Artemisia monosperma. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition, the transliteration of the Greek word, absinthe, is “1. A perennial aromatic European herb (Artemisia absinthium). A green liqueur having a bitter anise or licorice flavor and a high alcohol content, prepared from absinthe and other herbs.” It is also apparently used in teas and in the preparation of other foods. So while it is not a poison, its bitterness represents whatever caused this bitterness which was able to kill men.
In his own Revelation sermons, Bertrand Comparet had identified this star with Attila the Hun. That was based on the idea that somehow the Huns were not White, so they were not of the children of Israel, and that is wrong on both counts. The Huns were indeed White, and this prophecy here in Revelation chapter 8 is not a reference to Attila. [When Clifton Emahiser, in 2005 if my memory serves me correctly, had put together his transcriptions of Comparet's Revelation series along with a lot of my own notes, I disputed the identification of this passage with Attila. Now I can do so much more effectively.]
First, this passage of the prophecy follows the one which describes the invasions of the empire by the Goths and Vandals, and also the Huns. By this time, it seems that the Huns had already come to relative peace with the eastern empire, and were no longer a threat to the west, when the Vandals had their maritime escapades, which we have seen described before this passage. Secondly, Procopius described the Huns as tall and very fair. Procopius also equated the Massagetae and the Kimmerians to the Huns on several occasions, therefore esteeming them to be of the same Germanic stock as both the Goths and the Vandals.
Now the depictions of Attila as a short Asiatic runt come mainly from Jordanes, the Gothic historian, but he wrote in the seventh century – a hundred years after Procopius – and his main source was the Gothic propagandist Cassiodorus, whose work has hardly survived. Cassiodorus, a Roman Senator under Gothic rule, wrote his history in a manner which was very flattering to the Goths, who were once ruled over by the Huns and therefore they despised the Huns. The depictions of Attila by Cassiodorus and Jordanes are clearly little but propaganda. However other records of Attila exist, where he is often mentioned in Germanic writings such as the Edda and the Nibelungenlied. In Germanic poetry, Attila is depicted as a much more noble character, and in the Nibelungenlied he even receives the widow Kriemhild (or Grimhild) – the wife of the slain Burgundian prince Siegfried (Sigurth), as a wife. In the Poetic Edda, members of Attila's family, such as Buthli his father and Brynhild his sister, are considered mighty, brave, fair and fair-browed. And Attila himself is depicted as a mighty warrior. All of these descriptions could hardly be used of squat yellow orientals.
So with Attila discounted as the subject here, let us repeat the passage:
10 And the third messenger sounded the trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, burning as a lamp, and it fell upon a third of the rivers and upon the springs of waters, 11 and the name of the star is called Wormwood, and a third of the waters came to be wormwood and many of the men died from the waters because they had been made bitter.
It can be told from Daniel chapter 7 that upon dissolution of the toes of the empire, from one of them would arise ten horns, and then an eleventh which would subdue three kings. This describes Justinian, the eleventh emperor of the eastern empire. We hope to elaborate on Daniel chapter 7 and how its prophecy corresponds to the Revelation for our commentary on Revelation chapter 13. During the reign of Justinian, the Vandal King Gelimer was defeated in Carthage and the Gothic kings Witiges and Totila were defeated in Italy. During the wars of this period, much of Italy and Sicily were laid bare, the Vandal kingdom of North Africa was wasted and many of the Vandal soldiers were forcibly relocated to the east in the service of the conquering Byzantines. He also recovered a part of Spain, the kingdom of Agila I in Cordoba, but only held onto it for about 70 years.
The city of Rome was practically deserted for an extended period of time. Under the Gothic king Totila, Procopius attests that there were only about five hundred men of the Romans left in Rome and that “all the rest of the population were gone,” some to other lands and some to their deaths in a famine (7.20.19-20). This, it can be ascertained, is the wounding of the head in another vision – that of the beast of Revelation chapter 13. The Roman empire is dead, the eastern portion being only a stump, but the beast and the dragon which gives its power to the beast still lived to rise again – as the Roman Catholic Church. As a digression, Procopius also stated that Alaric, the king of the Goths, had taken the treasures of Judaea into his own possession, which Titus had much earlier taken from the temple in Jerusalem (5.12.41-42). So perhaps that explains why it is apparent that unto this very day, Jews have been extorting gold from the Germans, with six million percent interest.
With the invasions of the Germanic tribes into the empire, a third of the land was scorched, and a third of the ships and creatures in the sea were destroyed. But with this star, that same third of the rivers and the sea were made bitter. Therefore we interpret this star which fell from heaven and made a third of the waters bitter as representing the emperor Justinian, because Justinian would prevail over the Germanic peoples in a third of the conquered empire, in Italy, Spain and Africa, and this in turn would also ultimately pave the way for the Roman Catholic papacy in Western Europe, which was made possible by the decrees of Justinian. So we assert that this passage in the Revelation refers to Justinian, and so does the little horn of Daniel chapter 7, which we shall discuss at greater length when we present our commentary for Revelation chapter 13.
12 And the fourth messenger sounded the trumpet, and a third of the sun had been struck, and a third of the moon and a third of the stars, that a third of them had become darkened, and the day did not shine for a third part of it, and likewise the night.
While it is not esteemed that the symbolic language of the Revelation should always be interpreted literally, here we shall indeed offer a literal, physical proof of the veracity of our interpretations of these prophecies. But the references to the sun, moon and stars are not merely to the actual heavenly bodies. Rather they are also symbols of organized government and people. However in the context of this prophecy, there is a striking event which happened from 536 to 537 AD, and which points to a certain and literal fulfillment of this passage.
Of the very time when the great Byzantine general Belisarius had defeated the Vandals and taken Carthage for the emperor Justinian, Procopius writes thus: “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during this whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear nor such as it is accustomed to shed. And from the time when this happened men were neither free from war nor pestilence nor any other thing leading to death. And it was the time when Justinian was in the tenth year of his reign.” This is found Procopius’ History of the Wars, Book 4 chapter 14 paragraph 5.
It is my opinion that by this we have another sure sign that our interpretation of these passages, as foreboding the wars which destroyed the old Roman empire while also bringing great harm to the people of God who partook in that destruction on either side, is absolutely certain. But this also helps our interpretation of the star called Wormwood, as this dulling of the sun corresponds with the same time as that of Justinian. Yet the dulling of the sun during this year only represents and reflects the events as they were happening upon the earth, for after the passing of Rome, much of Europe also fell into the so-called Dark Ages – even if they were not actually as dark as we now perceive.
13 And I saw and heard one eagle flying in mid-air [literally “mid-heaven”] saying with a great voice: “Woe, woe, woe for [A and the MT according to Andreas of Caesareia have “to”; the text follows א and the traditional MT mss.] those dwelling upon the earth from the rest of the sounds of the trumpets of the three messengers who are about to sound!”
Rather than eagle, of which the Genitive form here is ἀετοῦ, the manuscripts of the Majority Text passed down from Andreas of Caesareia have angel, the Genitive form being ἀγγέλου. In my opinion, the words are not that similar to be so easily confused.
Of the seven seals of Revelation chapter 5, six have passed and we are still in the midst of the seventh. Of the four trumpets nested within the seventh seal, four have passed and three remain to be heard. As they are sounded, we shall see that they forebode the Arab and Turkic invasions of Europe, followed by visions of some of the events of the period of the Reformation. So here at the end of chapter 8 we see that three woes are announced, and the rise of Islam and it's conquest of a vast portion of Christendom constitute two of those woes. But the seventh trumpet, which is the final woe, contains seven vials, which are the seven last plagues which bring us to our own time.
This concludes our commentary on Revelation chapter 8, and with this we are hopeful that it has already become evident that the historical view of the prophecy of the Revelation is the only legitimate view.