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Rome’s Demise

The city of Rome was a great city, but like all great cities on this earth, it too fell from promi­nence. In its day, Rome was a thriving metropolis of wealth, politics and culture. The city was attacked in the year 410 AD, however it had been on the decline for many years. There are many theories about the fall of Rome, but one fact remains the same—along with the fall came the eventual end of the great Roman Empire. This fall is another example of the truth that God does not allow a single world power on this earth until the time of the anti-Christian kingdom which too will see its end. Only the heavenly kingdom of God will stand eternally.

In the year AD 410, Aleric, a barbarian from the Germanic tribes, led an attack on the city of Rome. Two years earlier, Aleric had besieged the city, but had to settle for payment of tribute monies. This time, he was successful in overcoming the city.

Aleric led a tribe of barbarians known as the Visigoths which left their homeland near the Rhine River to search for food. Already in 376 AD, the Visigoths had begged to be admitted to the Roman Empire due to a lack of food. However, they rebelled after being mistreated by the Roman officials. This tension was due to a number of things. In the first place, there were differences of blood and language that separated these people. The greatest difference, however, appears to be that the Visigoths were Arians. Arians were followers of Arius who taught the heresy that the Son was not part of the Godhead, thus denying the Trinity that was at the heart of the Western church and Christianity. The Romans did not want to lose their property to these heretics. These differences as well as the need for food led to the tensions between these two races.

The attack and sack of Rome lasted only three days and left the city basically intact, though many movable treasures were taken. The Visigoths were more interested in food and material goods than the destruction of Na city and empire. Their greatest disappointment was that great quantities of food were not found in the city.

The city did not fall on account of one great attack but rather due to many years of decline in the Roman Empire. The Empire had been split into an east and west faction, individually ruled by sons of the former emperor. This meant that the west no longer had the financial support of the east. Roman government also did not include the common people enough; therefore, after many centuries the people lost loyalty to an empire that always wanted more tax money.

Slaves had been a vital part of sustaining the empire, and when the Romans quit conquering and bringing back slaves their physical help decreased. As a result of decreasing slaves more men were needed to stay on the farms. There also were plagues in the second and third centuries which decreased the population.

Some have blamed Christianity for the fall of Rome. Rome had been a very pagan culture and as Christianity rose to be the state religion the people became disinterested in the worldly goods. Thus, some conclude that Christianity was the reason for the fall of Rome. Augustine, in his book The City of God, refuted this idea claiming that the pagans who encouraged immorality and the love of riches were the cause of the fall of Rome. These selfish values were at the root of Rome’s problems. Augustine also demonstrates that Rome was being punished for its former sins of paganism and persecution of Chris­tians. He also discourses about the fact that God is sovereignly in control of history and that earthly kingdoms and cities will fall. God has not allowed a complete world kingdom but has thwarted all man’s attempts since the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).

Man continually tries to be wiser than God. The great earthly wisdom of the Roman scholars led them to idols rather than the true God. The men who influence the great earthly powers put their trust likewise in earthly wisdom. They may not worship pagan idols today, yet anything worshiped beside the true God is idolatry. God will punish all who depart from His ways and put their trust in earthly things.

We must remember to seek wisdom and understanding through God and His written Word. This is illustrated in Hosea 14:9 which reads “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” This wisdom shall be seen in how our lives are lived.

As we see the rise of many earthly powers and know that the anti-Christian kingdom has yet to be established may we find comfort and strength in the fact that God is faithful and will thwart all these efforts at an earthly kingdom. For we shall see only the eternal kingdom in the new heavens and earth after Christ’s return. ❖

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Beth is a member of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.