The first angel blew his trumpet, and there was hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was thrown at the earth so that a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain of burning fire was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures living in the sea died, and a third of the ships were completely destroyed. Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a huge star burning like a torch fell from the sky; it landed on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. (Now the name of the star is Wormwood.) So a third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from these waters because they had turned bitter. Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. And there was no light for a third of the day and for a third of the night likewise. Revelation 8:7-12
These angels which blow the first four trumpets, I believe, are the angels who stood at the four corners of earth, who were told to wait until the saints of the Lord were sealed in Revelation 7:1-3. Now that the sealing is over, the four judgments “on the earth or the sea or the trees” go forward.
Now just as the first four seals were linked in meaning and time in Revelation 6, here the first four trumpets are linked in meaning and time. The first four trumpets taken together herald disasters which cumulatively strike one- third of the earth, or, as we learned previously, one- third of the civilized, inhabited world; that is, one- third of the Roman Empire. The trumpets strike 1) the land and vegetation (vs. 7), 2) the sea and shipping (vs. 8-9), 3) the rivers and fountains (vs 10-11), and 4) the light of the sun, moon, and stars (vs. 12).
Historicists name the first four trumpets the judgment of the barbarian invasions on Rome. We had already stated that we would begin looking at history around about 380 ad, as that was the official end of the first six seals depicting the decline of the Roman Empire and the fall of paganism. It just so happens that in 378 ad the Romans fought the battle of Hadrianople against the Goths, a German tribe. The Goths at this time were being pushed across the border of the Empire from their home on the Danube river by the Huns on their east:
Here … a great battle was fought at Adrianople in 378 in which the Goths defeated and slew the Roman emperor, Valens. The Germans had now not only broken through the boundaries of the Empire but also learned that they could defeat the troops on which the Empire relied for protection. The battle of Adrianople may therefore be said to mark the beginning of the conquest of the western part of the Empire by the Germans.
Among the Germans … was Alaric [who] collected an army, of which his countrymen, the West Goths, formed a large part, set out for Italy, and finally decided to march on Rome itself. The Eternal City fell into his hands in 410 and was plundered by his followers. Although Alaric did not destroy the city … the fact that Rome had fallen into the hands of an invading army seemed a terrible disaster. The pagans explained it on the grounds that the old gods were angry because so many people had deserted them and become Christians. St. Augustine, in his famous book The City of God, proved [the pagan assertion false].
James Breasted, History of Europe, Ancient and Medieval, pages 277-278.
Interestingly enough, it was Alaric’s policy to burn orchards and vineyards, fill cultivated fields with stones, and destroy agriculture. Thus in 378 there was an earthquake, when at the battle of Hadrianople, for the first time a Roman army was completely defeated by an invader inside the boundaries of the Empire. The battle of Hadrianople also heralded the coming of the barbarians. Then in 410 ad, the first trumpet of judgment against Rome: the barbarian Alaric plundered the city, destroying agriculture as he went. Thus the vegetation in one- third of the Empire was burned up.
To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 8: the second trumpet