Apostle John

Written from Patmos

REVELATION 1:9 ~ I am John, and I am your brother {in Christ}. We are together in Jesus, and we share these things: suffering, the kingdom, and patient endurance. I was on the island of Patmos because I was faithful to God’s message and to the truth of Jesus.

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Island of Patmos

Patmos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea near ancient Ephesus of today’s Turkey.  In ancient times, people living on Patmos were called Dorians.  In the third century BC, an acropolis was built there along with fortified towers and wall.  It is 13 square miles (34 sq. km).  

REVELATION 1:4, 10-11 ~ From John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace (kindness) and peace to you from the One (God) who is, who {always} was, and who is coming…On the Lord’s day the Spirit  took control of me. I heard a loud voice behind me. It sounded like a trumpet. The voice said, “Write in a book all these things you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna,  Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

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See location of these cities and Island of Patmos on map.


To church in Ephesus, County of Lydia, Province of Asia, Anatolia

REVELATION 2:1-3 ~ “Write this to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands is saying these things {to you}. I know what you do. You work hard, and you never quit. I know that you don’t accept evil people. You have tested those people who say that they are apostles but are really not. You found that they are liars. You continue to try without quitting. You endured {troubles} for my name. And you have not become tired of doing this.

Mains of great Temple to Artemis in Ephesus

Ephesus had one of the seven wonders of the world at the time this was written.  The great white marble temple to Artemis was there, of such great size that it could tower over any other temple in the world.  Those who made their living by making statues, serving as priests and priestesses, etc. troubled the church constantly with false accusations or even infiltration.  Despite everything they tried to do to eradicate Christianity, all that is left of the great temple to Artemis are a few stones and  single column that was created in modern times from scraps of columns laying around the ground.


To church in Smyrna, County of Mysia, Province of Asia, Anatolia

REVELATION 2:8-10 ~  “Write this to the angel of the church in Smyrna: “The One who is the First and the Last is saying these things {to you}. He is the One who died and came to life again. I know your troubles, and I know that you are poor. But really you are rich!  Don’t be afraid of the things that will happen to you. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison. He will do this to test you. You will suffer for ten days [awhile]. But be faithful, even if you have to die. If you continue faithful, then I will give you the crown of life.

There were two great temples in Smyrna ~ one to Zeus, the other to Cybele after whom the nearby mountain was named.  Recent excavations have uncovered statues of the gods Hermes, Dionysos, Eros and Heracles.  Today, Smyrna is called Izmar.

Temple to Zeus in Smyrna

Polycarp, a student of the Apostle John, was burned at the stake here.  Continually asked to recant by the Romans, he finally said, “Four-score years and six I have served the Lord, and He never wronged me; how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?”.  (A full account of his martyrdom is given by an eye witness in the book Apostolic Fathers.)

Also during this time in Smyrna, Ignatius wrote his Christian friends not to try to deliver him from his doom in Rome:  “Now I begin to be a disciple.  I care for nothing or invisible things so that I may but win Christ.  Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil come upon me.  Be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus.”


To church in Pergamum, County of Lydia, Province of Asia

REVELATION 2:12-14 ~ “Write this to the angel of the church in Pergamum: “The One who has the sharp two-edged sword [of the Word of love] is saying these things {to you}. I know where you live.  You live where Satan (the devil) has his throne. But you are true to me. You did not refuse to tell about your faith in me even during the time of Antipas.  Antipas was my faithful witness [Christian] who was killed in your city. Your city is where Satan lives.

Temple to Emperor Trajan in Pergamum

Pergamum had temples to Athena, Zeus, Hera, Demeter, and Asclepius; and in AD 98 a temple was dedicated to the Emperor Trajan.  Trajan actively led persecution of the Christians who refused to pay tribute to him or acknowledge him as a god.  His persecution got so bad that Pliny wrote him about the thousands of Christians being put to death daily, although they never broke any Roman laws:  “Their crime amounted only to this ~ that they were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight and to
repeat together a prayer to Christ as God, and to bind themselves by an obligation not indeed to commit wickedness.”  
Often, Christians were tortured to death in public amphitheaters for the entertainment of the people.


To church in Thyatire, County of Lydia, Province of Asia

REVELATION 2:18, 20, 24 ~ “Write this to the angel of the church in Thyatira: “The Son of God is saying these things. He is the One who has eyes that blaze like fire and feet like shining brass.

Thyatira is today’s Akhisar, the new city having been built on the ancient one.  Remains of the old city are exposed periodically when city lots are vacated.  One of the first-century coins minted in Thyatira was to Hercules who had a son named Tyranus/Tyrrhenus.  Some believe he was the patron god of the city at one time and had feet of flaming brass.  He was the god of thunder and his statues looked so much like Jupiter’s that in some parts he became Jupiter, god of lightning and flames.


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Tyranus, god of thunder
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Jupiter, god of lightning & flame







This is what he says {to you….. She says that she is a prophetess. But she is leading my people away with her teaching…. leads my people to do sexual sins and to eat food that is offered to idols…. But you other people in Thyatira have not followed her teaching. You have not learned the things that they call Satan’s (the devil’s) deep secrets (mysteries).

A Pythia

Both Apollo and Dionysus were served by women called pythia who were supposed to go into trances and discover the mysteries of the god and of people’s futures.  Apollo pythias were to do this nine months of the year, and Dionysus the other three months. Dionysus was the god of wine, fertility, ritual madness, theater, and religious ecstasy. Although they sometimes required human sacrifices in previous centuries, they now required animal sacrifices.  As in all such religions, whenever more sacrifices were made than the priests and priestesses could eat, they sold the rest of the meat in the market place.  It was against the consciences of Christians to eat such meat.


To the church in Sardis, County of Lydia, Province of Asia

REVELATION 3: 1 , 4-5~ “Write this to the angel of the church in Sardis: “The One who has the seven spirits and the seven stars is saying these things {to you}…. But you have a few people {in your group} there in Sardis who have kept themselves clean. Those people will walk with me. They will wear white clothes, because they are worthy. Every person that wins the victory will be dressed in white clothes like these people.

Temple to Artemis, goddess of chastity

Sardis was first mentioned in Homer’s Iliad.   As with so many cities in western Anatolia/Turkey, earthquakes hit periodically.  Sardis was destroyed in AD 17, but, as always, was rebuilt.  However, by the 19th century, it had been completely deserted. Therefore, since no city was built on top of it, excavations have been much easier than the other six churches of Asia.

A temple to Artemis was unearthed in ancient Sardis.  Often in this area, Artemis was interchangeable with Mother Earth Cybele.  Both were considered virgin mothers.  White referred to purity and cleanliness.


To the church in Philadelphia, County of Lydia, Province of Asia

REVELATION  3:7, 12 ~  “Write this to the angel of the church in Philadelphia…  The person that wins the victory will be a pillar in the temple of my God. I will do that for the person that wins the victory. That person will never again have to leave God’s temple.

Although the other cities with the other six churches had been founded at least a thousand years previously, Philadelphia was only about 250 years old.  It was called “Little Athens” because of its many temples.  The city of the area experienced many earthquakes and was nearly demolished by one during Augustus’ Caesar’s reign, so he exempted the city from paying taxes while it rebuilt.

An imperial cult to Augustus 
Caesar was at Philadelphia

Philadelphia had an imperial cult meaning that it had temples and tributes to all Caesars as gods.  Christians, of course, could not go into his temple and bow down to his statue.  They would allow themselves to be beaten or imprisoned or even executed for treason rather than bow down to Caesar or any other god.


To the church in Laodicea, County of Lydia, Province of Asia

REVELATION 3:14, 18a   ~ “Write this to the angel of the church in Laodicea: “The Amen* is the One saying these things {to you}. He is the faithful and true witness…. I advise you to buy gold from me—gold made pure in fire. Then you can be truly rich.

Laodicea was famous for its money transactions, being a trade center between Orientals and Europeans.  Travelers going to and from the orient needed money exchanged into each other’s currency.   This is according to historian Cicero.

Ruins of Laodicea

The Laodiceans were so rich that when their city was destroyed by an earthquake during the reign of Nero in AD 60 some four years before the Apostle John wrote this down, its citizens immediately rebuilt it with no outside help.  Numerous buildings from ancient Laodicea have been excavated, revealing statues, temples gymnasium, stadium, two amphitheaters, and other examples of wealth.

Tile floor from wealthy home in Laodicea

REVELATION 3:18b ~ I also tell you to buy medicine to put on your eyes. Then you can truly see.

Ancient historian, Strabo, explained that Laodicea had a great medical school.  Alexander Philalethes, a student of the great physician, Asclepiades, succeeded Zeuxis as head of a celebrated Herophilean school of medicine, established in Phrygia between Laodicea and Carura,

Physician Asclepiades

Denizili is the nearest town to the numerous ruins of Laodicea that have been excavated.  It was one of the tri-cities with Colossae and Hieraopolis.