April 2017

Jesus’ Letter to Pergamum

To the angel of the church in Pergamum write. Revelation 2:12 NIV

Pergamum was the third of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in His letters dictated to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. It is located adjacent to the modern day city of Bergama, Turkey, approximately 70 miles north of Smyrna (Izmir). Pergamum, or Pergamon to which it is sometimes referred, was at its zenith a city of 200,000 inhabitants and was briefly the Roman capital of Asia Minor before the capital was moved to Ephesus. Indications are that there was a small Jewish population in the city from which undoubtedly an embattled band of believers grew, in spite of the oppression of the worship of pagan idols and the pursuit of worldly wisdom that engulfed the city.

Pliny the Elder declared Pergamum “the most famous place in Asia” and it was not without reason. At the time the city could boast of being the world center for the worship of the deities Zeus (king of the gods), Asclepius (the god of healing), and Athena (goddess of wisdom).

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Jesus’ Letter to Smyrna

Smyrna was the second of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in His letters dictated to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. Located on the Aegean Sea just 40 miles northwest of Ephesus, Smyrna (modern day Izmir) was a major seaport city with a population of 100,000 people at that time. It was a very beautiful city, resplendent with civic and sacred districts (Roman cult worship), schools of science and medicine, agoras, theatres, gymnasia, and a stadium. The famous poet Homer was said to have made his home there. Smyrna contested with Ephesus and Pergamum to be the “First of Asia in beauty and size.” This phrase was boastfully imprinted on some of its coins. Today, only the ruins of a portion of the three level agora (marketplace), forerunner of a modern day mall, and an accompanying small area of the acropolis, where civic buildings and temples once stood, have been unearthed. The agora is thought to have been the largest in the ancient world and is the best preserved example of an ancient marketplace in Turkey. There are excellent views of it in the video posted above.

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Jesus’ Letter to the Ephesians

Ephesus was the first of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in His letters dictated to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. It is not surprising that Ephesus was singled out first as it lay claim to a number of pre-eminent characteristics, not the least of which was its Christian maturity and depth of revelation as evidenced in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. As is so often the case, Christianity shines the brightest when the context all around it is darkness. That was true of Ephesus as it had the distinction of being the center for the worship of the goddess Artemis and was a city renowned as a place where magic arts were practiced (Acts 19:17-20).

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Insights on Location at the 7 Churches of Revelation

Early this year, my wife Susan and I had the privilege of spending a month in the beautiful and historically enigmatic country of Turkey. In addition to visiting family members who live there and teaching at an international church on prayer, we journeyed to each of the original locations of the seven churches of the Book of Revelation. Our express purpose was to experience firsthand what it must have been like to be a Christian at that time in those cities, gain insights into the issues addressed in their respective letters, and share those findings in a brief five to six minute travelogue video of at each site.

The inaugural video in the series is published above. It was recorded at Ephesus, the first city and church to which John wrote the seven letters. The subsequent video for each city will follow in order, over the course of the next few weeks accompanying a blog post for each, giving some additional background information and key insights. It is my prayer that they will help deepen your understanding of these prophetically significant letters and their importance for us still today.

People are often surprised to learn that the seven churches to which the Apostle John wrote the seven letters dictated by Jesus, were all located in Western Turkey. It also is not commonly understood that the cradle of Christianity was in fact located in Turkey during the first century after the death of Jesus and the center of the Christian world continued there for more than 700 years.

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