This morning we flew from Istanbul to Izmir to begin our visitation of the cities of the Seven Churches of Rev. 2-3. Modern Izmir is biblical Smyrna. We saw the harbor from Mt. Pagos, the acropolis of the city. Unlike the harbors of Ephesus and Miletus, which have long since silted up, the harbor at Smyrna continues to be operational; it is in fact Turkey’s 2nd largest port city after Istanbul.
We also saw the ancient agora (market place) which dates back to the 2nd century A.D.
A highlight of our day today was a visit to the temple of Athena. Actually the site is closed but we obtained permission to enter and take photos. This temple’s history dates back to the 7th century B.C. The site was quite overgrown, but we were very glad to be able to see it, from the standpoint of historical and biblical interest.
New Testament Christians at Smyrna were surrounded by idolatry, and yet were expected by the Lord to have nothing to do with it. Not only was there the worship of various gods and goddesses, but also Smyrna was the center for Imperial worship. (Today we planned to see a statue of a priest of the Imperial cult in the Izmir Museum, but we learned it was temporarily on loan to Moscow!) There was also persecution brought on by unbelieving Jews. It was the church at Smyrna that received instructions in the midst of such trying circumstances to “remain faithful even to the point of death” (NET, Rev. 2:10).
Tomorrow we are to travel to Pergamum (Bergama), where there is much to see of biblical interest. From there we will travel to Thyatira (former home of Lydia of Philippi) . All in our group continue to be well, and for that we are thankful.