Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Seven Churches In TURKEY

1-SMYRNA (" Currently Izmir - Revelation 2:8-11 ")

Smyrna (Izmir) is one of the oldest cities of the Mediterranean world and has been of almost continuous historical importance during the last 5,000 years. Excavations indicate settlement contemporary with that of the first city of Troy, dating from the 3rd millennium BC.

Thereafter, the city developed into one of the wealthiest poleis of the region, vying with Ephesus and Myletus for the title "first city of Asia.". At the time when St. Polycarp became its bishop, the city's population was close to a hundred thousand people. Marble crosses found in the Agora indicate the existence of a sixth-century church. St. John's letter in the Revelation shows that there was also a synagogue in Smyrna in the first century.

The history of Smyrna goes back to the 3rd millenium B.C. In the 10th century B.C. Ionians occupied the city. The famous geographer Strabo tells us that as that of Ephesus, the Amazons were the founders of the city. Lydians conquered and devastated the city in the 7th century B.C. The city was re-established after Alexander the Great expelled Persians from Western Anatolia. Then the control of the city was shifted to Pergamum and finally to Rome. This was when a number of majestic buildings were erected in the city.

178 A.D. became the year of destruction for Smyrna; a major earthquake destroyed nearly every building in the city. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius reconstructed Smyrna. The worst time in the history of the city was when the Arab raids started in the 7th century. The Seljuk period and crusaders followed this. Finally, in the 15th century Ottomans took over.

The commercial activities flourished again. The city was considered as an important port-city of Asia Minor during Ottoman period and attracted many European traders. Now, it is still one of the most important port-cities of Turkey.

The famous bishop of Christian church, Polycorp served in Smyrna between 115 to 156 A.D. He and eleven other Christians from Philadelphia were burned at the stake in 156 A.D. during the persecution of Christians in Smyrna. He was a good transmitter and follower of the early traditions of Christian faith.

In his letter to the Christians of Smyrna, 60 years before Polycorp's massacre, St.John wrote :Revelation

(2:8) To the angel of the church in Smyrna write :This is the message from the one who is the first and the last, who died and lived again.

(2:9) I know your troubles; I know that you are poor but really you are rich! I know the evil things said against you by those who claim to be Jews but are not; they are a group that belongs to Satan! Don't be afraid of anything you are about to suffer. Listen! The Devil will put you to test by having some of you thrown into prison, and your troubles will last ten days. Be faithful to me, even if it means death, and I will give you life as your prize of victory. If you have ears, then listen to what the Spirit says to the churches! Those who win the victory will not be hurt by the second death.

2-THYATIRA (" Currently Akhisar Revelation 2:18-29 ; Acts 16:14 ")

Thyatira (Akhisar) was an insignificant town until it was refounded by Seleucus Nicator in the beginning of the 3rd century BC. It was originally a military fort but lost this purpose with the Pax Romana and became a wealthy commercial city. The city had a number of trade guilds. Every skilled worker was a member of a union (listed as tailors, woolworkers,tanners, potters, bakers, etc). Commercial guilds in Thyatira were connected with the pagan religions of the city and involved participation in pagan rituals,feasts and celebrations.

The ancient city of Thyatira (Akhisar) is located approximately 80 Kms to the north-east of Smyrna (Izmir) and lies mostly under the current city of Akhisar. Only the temple of Apollo, an ancient church and a collonaded road remained till today.

The city was founded by Lydians and named as Pelopio. Selucus Nicator, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, took over the control of the city in the 3rd century B.C. and changed its name to Thyatira. During the following centuries Pergamum became the ruler of the city. It was lying on a very flat land and was very hard to defend.

Apollo was the most influencial god of Thyatira.

After 100 B.C. the Roman influence was very apparent. The earliest settlers of the city were the Jews. There was a large colony of Jewish settlers known to be living in the city throughout the centuries.

In his letter to the church and the Christian citizens of Thyatira, St.John was writing :Revelation

(2:18) To the angel of the church in Thyatira write :This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes blaze like fire, whose feet shine like polished brass.

(2:19) I know what you do. I know your love, your faithfulness, your service, and your patience. I know that you are doing more now than you did at first.

(2:20) But this is what I have against you : you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a messenger of God. By her teaching she misleads my servants into practicing sexual immortality and eating food that has been offered to idols.

(2:21) I have her time to repent of her sins, but she does not want to turn from her immortality.

(2:22) And so I will throw her on a bed where she and those who committed adultery with her will suffer terribly. I will do this now unless they repent of the wicked things they did with her.

(2:23) I will also kill her followers, and then all the churches will know that I am the one who knows everyone's thoughts and wishes. I will repay each one of you according to what he has done.

(2:24) But the rest of you in Thyatira have not followed this evil teaching; you have not learned what the others call 'the deep secrets of Satan.' I say to you that I will not put any other burden on you.

(2:25) But until I come, you must hold firmly to what you have.

(2:26-28) To those who win the victory, who continue to the end to do what I want, I will give the same authority that I received from my Father : I will give them authority over the nations, to rule them with and iron rod and to break thm to pieces like clay pots. I will also give them the morning star.

(2:29) If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!

3-PHILADELPHIA (" Currently Alaşehir - Revelation 3:7-13 ")

Philadelphia (Alasehir) was founded by Attalos II Philadelphos of Pergamum (159-138 BCE). In 481 BCE the Persian king Xerxes I had travelled towards Sardis on his way to Greece. The objective of Attalos II in founding a city here was probably to establish a gateway to Phrygia and to hellenize its inhabitants who spoke their own Gallic tongue. The church which has been named after St.John was a rectangular building of six pillars of reused stone material and upper structure in brick. Three of pillars have survived, with the fourth half buried in soil. The westernmost pillars are under modern buildings. On the pillars some eleventh century paintings can barely be distinguished.

Philadelphia which is known as Alaşehir now, is about 130 Kms to the east of Smyrna (Izmir).It was the least important cities of the ones mentioned in Revelation of St.John. The city was located on the eastern edge of the Ionian civilization. But it had the most difficult task of spreading the Christian faith to the east, outside the Ionian region. Philadelphia, together with Smyrna was considered as one of the distinguished churches out of the seven churches of Revelation about which nothing bad was mentioned by St.John.Philadelphia means "brotherly love" and it was founded by the king of Pergamum, Attalus II, Philadelphus of Pergamum. He was given the title of Philadelphus because of his love for his brother Eumenes, who was the previous king os Pergamum.

The geographical position of the city was very important. It was on a high hill overlooking the Persian Royal Road and the two important valleys of Ionia, the Hermuz (Gediz) and the Meander (Menderes).By the year 19 A.D. native language Lydian had ceased and only the Greek language was spoken.The city was in the middle of grape country. So, the most respected god was Dionysus. (he was the Greek wine god) The regional town center of Alasehir still continues the tradition of harvesting grapes.

In his famous letter of Revelation, St.John wrote to the church of Philadelphia :

(3:7) To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write :This is the message from the one who is holy and true. He has the key that belonged to David, and when he opens a door, no one can close it, and when he closes it, no one can open it.

(3:8) I know what you do; I know that you have a little power; you have followed my teaching and have been faithful to me. I have opened a door in front of you, which no one can close.

(3:9) Listen! As for that group that belongs to Satan, those liars who claim that they are Jews but are not, I will make them come and bow down at your feet. They will all know that I love you. ;

(3:10) Because you have kept my command to endure, I will also keep you safe from the time of trouble which is coming upon the world to test all the people on earth.

(3:11) I am coming soon. Keep safe what you have, so that no one will rob you of your victory prize.

(3:12) I will make him who is victorious a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which will come down out of heaven from my God. I will also write on him my new name.

(3:13) If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!"

4-PERGAMUM (" Currently Bergama - Revelation 2:12-17 ")

When king Attalus III died without an heir, he bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans, under whom the city retained its position as the preeminent artistic and intellectual center of Anatolia but declined in political and economic importance. The city went through the Arab, Byzantine and finally the Turkish period in the 14th century. Pergamum attained a high culture in the Hellenistic Age

This small Ionian city was not known well until 399 B.C. It was first mentioned in connection with Lysimachos, a general of Alexander the Great and protector of the city. During emperor Eumenes II (197-159 B.C.), the city signed an agreement with Rome and extended its influence to the Taurus mountains in the south. In 133 B.C., Attalus III willed the empire to Rome because of lack of heir to the throne. Under his administration, the population of Pergamum reached 140,000 people. The famous doctor of antiquity, Galen worked in Asklepieion (sanatorium) of Pergamum and wrote at least 500 medical books. Only during the Christian period, the famous Serapis temple was converted into a basilica and dedicated to St.John. This church of Pergamum was one of the seven apocalyptic churches of Asia Minor.

In his book of Revelation St.John wrote the following words of God to the church of Pergamum Revelation (2:12-17) :

(2:12) To the angel of the church in Pergamum write : This is the message from the one who has the sharp two-edged sword.

(2:13) I know where you live, there where Satan has his throne. You are true to me, and you did not abandon your faith in me even during the time when Antipas, my faithful witness, was killed there where Satan lives.

(2:14) But there are a few things I have against you : there are some among you who follow the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak how to lead the people of Israel into sin by persuading them to eat food that had been offered to idols and to practice sexual immorality.

(2:15) In the same way you have people among you who follow the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

(2:16) Now turn from your sins! If you don't, I will come to you soon and fight against those people with the sword that comes out of my mouth.

(2:17) If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches! To those who win the victory I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give each of them a white stone on which is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.

5-EPHESUS (" Revelation 1:11, 2:1-7; Acts 18:19-28, 19:1-41 Ephesians ")

Ephesus is vividly alluded to in Acts 19-20 in connection with St. Paul's extended ministry at Ephesus. Apostle Paul is believed to have spent two and a half years in Ephesus during his third missionary journey, until a riot forced him to leave the city rapidly. Some authorities believe that St. Paul was imprisoned in the so called Prison of St. Paul in Ephesus. Eventually, the belief in Christ and the veneration of his Blessed Mother replaced the worship of Artemis and the other deities.Ephesus was the site of the third ecumenical council in 431 AD, at which the question of the Virgin Mary being the mother of God was debated. In this council it was decided that Christ had a double nature as God and man, and the Virgin Mary was theotokos (god bearer).

The second pilgrimage center for Christians, also home to the Virgin Mary and St.John. In 431 A.D., the second ecumenical council convened in the church of the Virgin Mary. The same church is also known as one of the "Seven Churches of the Apocalypse". There is also a Basilica where St.John was buried and nearby is Bülbül mountain where the house of the Virgin Mary is located. There is a foundation in front of the Odeum of the city. It is thought to be the foundation of an ancient temple that was later converted into a church. A bull's head carved in the doorjamb once led people to believe that this was the tomb of St. Luke since the bull's head was an ancient symbol for him. When Paul returned from Corinth to Ephesus, he stayed briefly in the city and talked the people of Ephesus in the synagogue where he was asked to stay longer. He promised and said : "I shall come back to you if it is God's will" (Acts 18:18-20) and he left Ephesus for Phoenecia and Jerusalem. On his next journey to Ephesus, St. Paul stayed longer and taught to his followers all the details of the Christian faith, during this two year period.

His relation with the locals started to go bitter when he preached that "gods made by human hands are not gods at all" (Acts 19:26). After a public speech in the great amphitheater, the angry citizens of Ephesus reacted violently, led by Demetrius, a leader of the silversmiths. Paul was saved from the uproar of the people by the city clerk. However, it was apparent to Paul that he had better leave the city as soon as possible. Calling his followers together, he said goodbye to them with words of encouragement and set off for Macedonia (Acts 19:28, 20:1). St Paul returned to Ephesus later.St.John came to Ephesus in 40 A.D. with the Virgin Mary. They lived here until their deaths. He presided over the churches of Asia in the later years of his life and was buried where the church of St.John now stands on Ayasuluk hill. Durign the reign of Byzantine's emperor Justinian, the church was made into a cathedral. Some of its collapsed columns have been set up again recently. Besides the nave, there is a baptistery and a small chapel with some frescoes. St. John's tomb is still there.

The home of Virgin Mary, is now visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year. The pilgrims come to drink the waters of the sacred spring, to meditate, to pray for health, and to breathe the holy atmosphere of this ancient place of worship. Pope Paul VI visited the place in 1967 and recently Pope John Paul II came to celebrate the mass here and prayed in both churches and Ephesus itself.St.John wrote the following words to the people of Ephesus and the church in Ephesus: Revelation

(2:1) To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands.

(2:2) I know what you have done; I know how hard you have worked and how patient you have been. I know that you can not tolerate evil man and that you have tested those who say they are apostles but are not, and have found out that they are liars.

(2:3) You are patient, you have suffered for my sake, and you have not given up.

(2:4) But this is what I have against you : you do not love me now as you did at first.

(2:5) Think how far you have fallen! Turn from your sins and do what you did at first. If you don't turn from your sins, I will come to you and take your lampstand from its place.

(2:6) But this is what you have in your favor : you hate what the Nicolaitans do, as much as I do.

(2:7) If you have ears, then, listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the churches! To those who win the victory I will give the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the Garden of God.

6-LAODICEA (" Revelation 3:14-22, colossians 2:1, 4:13-16 ")

Laodicea on the Lycus (Eskihisar) is thought to have been founded by the Seleucid King Antiochus II Theos (261-246 BCE) and named after his wife Laodice. The name of the river Lycus (Çürûksu) near which it was founded was attached to the name of the city to distinguish it from the other settlements of the same name. The Lyucus was a tributary of the river Meander whose water has been a major source of the region's agricultural wealth.As usual the spot chosen for the new city was on the most important trade and military route from the Aegean coast to the interior of Anatolia.

The origin of the city goes back to the 3rd century B.C. It is thought to have been named to the honor of king Antiochus II's wife Laodicea.Cicero is known to be lived in the city in 50 B.C. Laodicea was on the crossroads between the important Ionian cities of that time. This helped the city become wealthy because of high volume of commercial activity in the region.There was a rich and influencial Jewish community long before the Christian era. But, most of the locals worshipped Zeus more than any other god. During the time of St.John, the church of Laodicea was one of the seven most important churches of Christianity.

God's message to the church of Laodicea which was written in Revelation (3:14-22),he said :

(3:14) To the angel of the church in Laodicea write : This is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the origin of all that God has created.

(3:15) I know what you have done; I know you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other!

(3:16) But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth!

(3:17) You say, 'I am rich and well off; I have all I need.' But you do not know how miserable and pitiful you are! You are poor, naked, and blind.

(3:18) I advise you, then, to buy gold from me, pure gold, in order to be rich. Buy also white clothing to dress yourself and cover up your shameful nakedness.

(3:19) I rebuke and punish all whom I love. Be in earnest, then, and turn from your sins.

(3:20) Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me.

(3:21) To those who win the victory I will give the right to sit beside me on my throne, just as I have been victorious and now sit by my Father on his throne.

(3:22) If you have ears, then, listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the churches!

7-SARDIS (" Sart - Revelation 3:1-6 ")

The ruins of Sardis can be divided into four areas: the Acropolis on Bozdağ (Mount Tomolos), the Pactolos Valley where the Artemis Temple was built, the city located on both sides of the modern highway between Ankara and Izmir and finally "Bintepeler" (the Thousand Hills) consisting of hundreds of Lydian tombs. Sardis was the capital of famous kingdom of Lydia. Lydians were powerful and creative leaders in the fields of commerce and economics. Sardis was ruled by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. and then by the Roman Empire in the 2nd century B.C. The ruins to the north of the highway are what were then public toilets, gymnasium and a synagogue.

To the south of the synagogue was the main road of the city which had various shops, including a hardware store and a paint shop. The road once formed the westernmost stretch of the Royal Road. These ruins are of Byzantine period and have been dated to the 4C AD. The Synagogue is from the 3C AD and once was a part of the gymnasium and restored to be a synagogue. Sardis has the largest known ancient synagogue. Its size and grandeur are a testimony to the prosperity of the Jews in Sardis during Roman times and to their eminent position in the city. It was probably not originally planned to be a synagogue as it has a very different layout. It faces the direction of Jerusalem and the entrance is also from the same side through three gates, which open from the courtyard into the main assembly hall. After entering, one has to turn back to see the two shrines between the gates. At the opposite end of the hall there is a semicircular apse with three rows of marble seats which were thought to be for the elders. The floors were mostly covered with mosaics.The Gymnasium is a large complex consisting of a palaestra next to the synagogue, colonnades on three sides and the main building with the recently-restored ornate facade. According to its inscription, it was dedicated by the people of Sardis to Geta and Caracalla, the sons of Septimus Severus and to their mother Julia Domna. It was a complex of symmetrically arranged rooms.

The temple of Artemis next to the Pactolus river (Sart çayı) dates from the 4th century B.C. There was a temple dedicated to goddess Kybele before that during the time of King Croesus. This one was destroyed by Athenians during the revolt of Ionians against the Persian rule. Then Alexander the Great ordered a new one, the temple of Artemis, on the same site. In fact, only the temple of Kybele was destroyed not the spirit of this important Anatolian goddess. She continued to live in the form of Artemis!The Artemis Temple is located in the Pactolos Valley and was one of the seven largest ancient temples with eight columns at each end and twenty along each side. It was believed that an altar dedicated to Artemis had existed there as early as the 5C BC. The temple was built in stages, the first part being constructed in 300 BC. Later further construction took place in the 2C BC. Again only part of the project was completed.

The third stage started in the 2C AD. At this stage the cella was divided into two halves by an internal cross-wall, the western half dedicated to Artemis and the other half to the Empress Faustina, who was deified after her death.The fact that many Artemis temples in the Aegean region face west is testimony to Ekrem Akurgal’s conclusion that all these temples were connected to each other by an earlier Anatolian religious cult. Ruins of a small building at the southeastern corner of the temple belong to a 4C AD church. According to some sources it is referred to as one of the Seven Churches of the Revelation. However, this cannot be correct as congregations not the actual buildings were meant by churches at that time. The king Croesus was the wealthiest man of his time and Sardis became the richest city of antiquity. The famous wise man of Athens, also the reformer, Solon, came to see this great city and its famous king. It is thought that the famous story teller Aesop was a Phrygian who lived in Sardis during the reign of king Croesus. The empire fell to the hands of Persians in 546 B.C. Beside the temple a small Byzantine church and recently unearthed synagogue stood.

On his letter of revelation to the Christians of Sardis, St.John wrote :
(3:1) To the angel of the church in Sardis write :This is the message from the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know what you are doing; I know that you have the reputation of being alive, even though you are dead!

(3:2) So wake up, and strengthen what you still have before it dies completely. For I find that what you have done is not yet perfect in the sight of my God.

(3:3) Remember, then, what you were taught and what you heard; obey it and turn from your sins. If you do not wake up, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not even know the time when I will come.

(3:4) But a few of you there in Sardis have kept your cloths clean. You will walk with me, clothed in white, because you are worthy to do so.

(3:5) Those who win the victory will be clothed like this in white, and I will not remove their names from the book of the living. In the presence of my Father and of his angels I will declare openly that they belong to me.

(3:6) If you have ears, then, listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the churches!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


1-Izmir (Smyrna)
2-Akhisar (Thyatira)
3-Alasehir (Philadelphia)
4-Bergama (Pergamum)
5-Efes (Ephesus)
6-Eskihisar (Laodicea)
7-Sart (Sardis)

Kaynak: www.cankan.com