Al Gibson reports on his trip to Türkiye (Turkey) where he visited the ancient ruins of Smyrna, Ephesus and Pergamum, cities that are listed among the 7 Churches of Revelation.
Greetings from Türkiye which is the site of many of the stories in the Book of Acts. It is also where the Apostle Paul’s wrote epistles to specific cities like Ephesus and Colossae. And of course where Letters to the 7 Churches of Revelation were sent.
Although I have been to Israel several times to ‘follow in the footsteps of Jesus’ I never really considered visiting other lands with a close connection to the Bible. I came to Türkiye for dental treatment, yet God had other plans and it became something of a Biblical expedition.
Little did I know when I selected the dentist that the surgery was located in Izmir, close to the ancient city of Smyrna… In fact the site is just a few blocks from my hotel. Then I discovered Ephesus and Pergamum were about an hour’s drive away. Of course, Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is written to the Church at Ephesus, which is also one of the 7 Churches of Revelation.
Given the close proximity, I felt I should make every effort to try and go to these sites and I am so glad I did. Of course, the 7 Churches of Revelation do not refer to church buildings but congregations of people who lived 2000 years ago. These were amongst the first believers who often met in homes or in the open air. So you will not find any church ruins in these places.
What you will find is the remains of many ancient temples to the gods, the cult of Emperor worship, statues of idols etc. ie. a pagan culture in which these fledgling bodies of believers faced many challenges just to survive. Their message was to invite people to follow the one true God in a place of an infinite choice of idols.
I find this hugely encouraging today, as even though we live in such an ungodly, idolatrous society, the Church of Jesus Christ continues. Jesus promised to build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. He is still building His Church today.
Visiting the 7 Churches of Revelation
I have heard it said that it is a tragedy that none of the 7 Churches of Revelation continue to exist. Türkiye is a Muslim country and churches are not allowed here. And yet one Sunday morning I heard Christian worship coming from one of the conference rooms in the hotel. Then I got the opportunity to connect with an American group from Arizona who had come to support a local church in Izmir.
Through them, I got to meet the pastor and his wife and hear how God is moving in their congregation. They cannot have a church building but they can legally have ‘an association’. I visited their beautiful home, along with about 20 members of the mission group from the USA, and it’s brilliantly set up to offer hospitality to many people.
I am encouraged now to read each of the letters again, at the start of the book of Revelation. Knowing that when God sends a letter, it is to a group of people and not a building. Encouraged that the Holy Spirit is at work within this Muslim nation and people are still being saved.
Visiting Ephesus, I was reminded of the one thing Jesus had against the body of believers there. They had forgotten their first love. I am inspired to ensure this doesn’t happen in my life. Perhaps this will challenge you in your faith too. It’s always good to consider how we may have become lukewarm and how we can be more on fire for God.
I am also encouraged to read and study the letters to the 7 Churches of Revelation and the lessons they teach which are timeless. In fact, they are as apt today as they were 2,000 years ago. I also see with new eyes the importance of raising up congregations which are eternal over building new church structures.