The Seven Churches of Revelation- Then and Now?
While most Christians know Israel as the “Holy Land”, fewer know that Turkey has more Biblical sites than any other country. Over 60% of all places mentioned in the Bible are located in Turkey, also known as the Second Holy Land. This includes the sites of the Seven Churches of Revelation. The Seven Churches of Revelation refer to seven churches referenced by location in Asia Minor in chapters 2 and 3. These churches were a gathering of early Christian communities versus actual buildings or meeting halls. The scriptures point to historical and prophetic instruction to Christians as individual believers and as a body, thus known as the church. In these chapters lie both a correction and a warning to believers within the church but also words of praise as God understood what they were going through and provided them with encouragement. Historically these locations were considered major cultural hubs for various reasons such as trade, military and hedonism. The following gives history and scriptural reference to each of the seven churches within Asia Minor, known today as the country of Turkey, whose archaeological remains still exist in part to this day.
Church of Ephesus
Known as the church that left its first love (Rev. 2:4) , Ephesus was also an influential capital city of Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea. This ancient city was home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. Artemis, also spoken of as Diana by the Romans, was the goddess of fertility that supposedly controlled the reproduction of humans, animals, and crops. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was known throughout the ancient world for its temple prostitutes and hedonistic celebrations. Ephesus today is known for its huge metropolis of ancient streets, arches and ruins.
Church of Thyatira
The church of Thyatira was known to have followed a seductive prophetess by the name of Jezebel and thus referred to as the ‘false’ church. (Rev 2:20) Thyatira is located inland from the Aegean Sea in Western Turkey. This ancient city was known for its textiles and trade which was evidenced by numerous artifacts and inscriptions from various guilds. In Acts 16:11-15, a dye merchant is mentioned in Thyatira and Lydia. The archaeological remains of this ancient city reside in a fenced off city block in the heart of what is now known as the Turkish city of Akhisar.
Church of Sardis
Sardis was known as the ‘dead’ church or ‘the church that fell asleep’. (Rev. 3:1) Jesus spoke urging the church to ‘wake up’. Located on the banks of the Pactolus River and inland from Ephesus and Smyrna, Sardis was the capital of the Lydian empire and one of the most influential cities of the ancient world. Those who visit will now find ruins of lavish temples and bath house complexes.
Church of Philadelphia
Known as the church of brotherly love that endured patiently, (Rev. 3:7-10) Philadelphia was filled with a variety of temples and worship centers. It is located on the Cogamis River in Western Asia Minor and today is known as the Turkish city of Alasehir. Unfortunately, because of a series of earthquakes, there is not much left of Philadelphia and archaeology is limited to foundation stones and a few Roman columns.