Depart from Spokane at 6:05 am on United Airlines flight #812.
After arriving in Istanbul at 2:55 pm, we begin our tour by driving to Nicea, the city that achieved fame as the site of two ecumenical councils (A.D. 325 and 787). From there we will continue on to Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Dinner and overnight in Bursa.
After a morning Sabbath worship, en route to Smyrna we stop at Thyatira, where the Christians were praised for their love, faith, service, and patient endurance, but rebuked for their toleration of a woman symbolically called Jezebel. After Thyatira we visit the ruins of the agora (the ancient market place) in Smyrna. The church at Smyrna was one of only two churches in Revelation that received praise and no criticism. Two traits characterized this congregation: persecution and poverty. An example of the persecution they faced can be seen in the death of Polycarp, the local Christian bishop, who was put to death in the ancient agora for his faith in A.D. 156. Dinner and overnight in Izmir.
Today we travel to Sardis the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and home of King Croesus (560-546 BC), who was famous for his wealth. The wealth of ancient Sardis can still be seen in what remains of its ancient temple of Artemis, the fourth largest ionic temple in the world. This temple was renovated by the Romans in the 2nd century AD and converted into a temple of in honor of the worship of the Roman Emperor. Sardis also was home to one of the oldest and the largest Jewish synagogues discovered in Asia Minor. We will have our own Sabbath worship in ancient Sardis. From Sardis we travel to Philadelphia. Besides Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only other church in Revelation to receive no criticism. All that remains of ancient Philadelphia is a few columns from a Byzantine church, on which some frescoes are still visible. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale.
Today's excursion takes us to the sites of the three main cities of the Lycus River Valley: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae. Since Paul mentions a certain Epaphras in connection to all three of these cities, it is likely that Epaphras was responsible for taking the gospel to this valley. Our first stop is Hierapolis and it’s natural wonders: ancient hot springs and unique calcium terraces. Hierapolis is mentioned at the end of Paul's letter to the Colossians where he praises the evangelistic work of Epaphras (Col. 4:13). Only a few miles away from Hierapolis is the city of Laodicea. Located on a major trading route, Laodicea had become famous in Paul's day for its banking interests, its textile industries, and a special eye-salve produced by its medical school. Evidence of Laodicea's wealth can be seen in the city's archaeological remains and the new discoveries ongoing excavation are uncovering almost daily. A visit to Laodicea makes it easy to see why this city was rebuked for it’s attitude of self-sufficiency in Revelation 3:14-22. We conclude our tour of the Lycus River Valley by stopping at the site of ancient Colossae. Though little remains of Colossae, this city was the recipient of two of Paul's letters: Colossians and Philemon. Dinner, Friday night vespers, and overnight in Kusadasi.