Paul’s Journey Tour
February 28 — March 1, 2006
Pergamum was one of the churches addressed in the book of Revelation when Jesus dictated letters through John. It was one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in Asia Minor. Some believe that the altar of Zeus, located in Pergamum, was the “Satan’s throne” that was mentioned in Revelation 2:13.
When we left Pergamum en route to Sardis, we drove by the ruins of the city of Thyatira. Thyatira was not only the home of one of the seven churches of Asia Minor, but it was the original residence of Lydia, the first convert to Christianity in Europe under Paul’s ministry.
This underground tunnel is part of the Asklepion in Pergamum. The Asklepion was a healing center with many buildings dedicated to the Greek god of healing named Asklepios. His symbol was a rod with a snake wrapped around it. This tunnel was just one of many healing “facilities” used at the Asklepion. Sick individuals would pass through this tunnel and hear the sound of running water. The priests would be positioned at the holes in the ceiling and would whisper to people passing through the tunnel such phrases as, “You are well,” and “You are healed.” Occasionally, snakes were dropped through the holes in the ceiling to represent the presence of the healing god, Asklepios. What took place in other areas of the Asklepion was a combination of genuine medical treatments, the power of suggestion, and occult practices. With this type of thing present in the ancient world, it’s no wonder that Paul’s ministry of the gospel was accompanied by true signs and wonders from God as he sought to turn people from idols to serve the Living God!
Sardis was another one of the churches addressed by Jesus through John’s letters (Revelation 2-3). One of the statements Jesus made to this church was, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” (Rev. 3:1-3).
Because of its acropolis, Sardis had a reputation for being an almost impregnable fortress. This overconfidence caused its residents to grow lax, and twice the city was overthrown because they failed to keep proper watch. The church in this city would have understood well what Jesus said to them.
Tony and Lisa are standing here beside the Temple of Artemis in Sardis. When Lisa saw that the remains of an ancient church stood right next to this temple, she was impressed that the church was not afraid of the idolatry that existed in the ancient world, but set up camp so its light could shine right in the middle of the pagan darkness.
This mosaic is from the floor of an ancient synagogue in Sardis.
Our time in Ephesus was a highlight of the tour for many in the group. It is one of those places you really need to see to fully appreciate. What took place in Ephesus is so significant! Not only did Paul spend three years here, but Timothy was the pastor here, and later, the Apostle John based his ministry and lived out his natural life here.
We had communion in the great theater, where Paul’s opponents protested his ministry with shouts of, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Paul’s ministry was so effective in Ephesus that it threatened to totally undermine the financial profit that existed in that system of idolatry. It was from Ephesus that “…all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10)
The burial place of the Apostle John (Ephesus) is in the foreground of this picture; our group is in the background.
Our Turkish guide, Hakan, stands beside and explains the remains of the huge statue of the Emporer Domitian that once stood in Ephesus. Domitian was the emperor who exiled John to Patmos.
Once it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but today, almost nothing is left of the Temple of Artemis (Diana) in Ephesus. If anything was clear from this trip, it was this:
Artemis, Apollo, Asklepios, and Athena are all dead – they are nothing but memories and myths. Jesus, though, is alive and well, and His Kingdom continues to advance and progress!