July 14: Pergamum
Today we drive north to Pergamum, one of the Seven Churches in Revelation. Revelation refers to Pergamum as the place "where Satan's throne is." This is not surprising since Pergamum was well known for its many temples, and as the city that became the site of the first cult of a living Roman emperor. At the time John wrote Revelation, Christians were suffering persecution for refusing to worship the emperor Domitian. We will visit the acropolis with its many temples, and the Asklepion, one of the famous healing sanctuaries in the ancient world. Overnight in Izmir at the Kaya Thermal Hotel.
July 15: Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia
Today we begin with a trip to the remains ancient Smyrna. The Christians in Smyrna are one of only two churches in Revelation that received only praise and no criticism. Two traits characterized this congregation: persecution and poverty. An example of the former is the death of Polycarp, the local Christian bishop, who was put to death here for his faith in Jesus in A.D. 156. We will see the ancient remains of the city's agora.
Smyrna. The Christians in Smyrna are one of only two churches in Revelation that received only praise and no criticism. Two traits characterized this congregation: persecution and poverty. An example of the former is the death of Polycarp, the local Christian bishop, who was put to death here for his faith in Jesus in A.D. 156. We will see the ancient remains of the city's agora.
Our second tour site is the ancient city of Sardis, another one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. Jesus told Sardis, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name, that thou livest, and art dead" (Rev. 3: 1-6). Once the capital of a powerful empire, Sardis is credited with being the first city in antiquity to devise the necessary technology to mint coins and to dye wool. Compared to several of the sites we have visited, much of ancient Sardis remains. One can see the foundation and the massive columns of the Temple of Artemis, which was converted into a small chapel by the early Christians, the city's gymnasium, and what was once the largest Jewish synagogue in Asia Minor.
Our final tour site is the remains of the ancient city of Philadelphia. Besides Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only other church in Revelation to receive no criticism. We will see the remains of the Byzantine Church of St. John the Theologian. Dinner and overnight Pamukkale Spa Hotel Colossae.
July 16: Hierapolis, Laodicea, Colossae
Today we visit the three churches in the Lycus River Valley: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae. Hierapolis is mentioned once in the Bible at the end of Paul's letter to the Colossians. According to the earliest Christian tradition, Hierapolis was the home of Philip the Evangelist. The city was well known in antiquity for its hot springs that were believed to have medicinal properties. The high mineral content of the hot springs have also resulted in spectacular white-colored calcified cliffs that have the appearance of snow from a distance. Today we travel to Sardis, a city with a rich heritage, but with a church that was mostly criticized for its lack of spiritual life.
Our next stop is the famed city of Laodicea, located only a few miles away. Laodicea had a thriving textile industry, a medical school that produced a eye-lotion used as an eye-salve and as a cosmetic, and was a major banking center. While the gospel once energized this city (Col. 4:15), by the end of the first century Laodicea had become spiritually dead--though they thought they were alive. In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus said to the Laodiceans, "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth." We will witness the newest excavations that are rapidly taking place there as well as visit the site that is already full of interesting remains.
Just a few miles away from Laodicea is ancient Colossae. Although Paul had not visited the city he wrote two letters to them several years later when he heard of some of the challenges they were facing. The first letter is Colossians, a general letter to the church warning them of false teachings. The second letter is written to Philemon, one of the members in Colossae. Paul appeals to Philemon to welcome back a runaway slave named Onesimus--not merely as a slave, but to grant him his freedom and accept him as a fellow brother in Christ. Unfortunately, little remains from ancient Colossae since the city has never been excavated.
July 17: Miletus and Didyma
Drive and Tour Miletus and Didyma, Afternoon private boat and swim in Kusadasi (B,D).
Dinner and Overnight Kusadasi Charisma Deluxe Hotel.
July 18: Ephesus - Morning
Our last full day of touring will be extra special since we will visit one of the most important archaeological sites in the world—ancient Ephesus. Ephesus was once the most important commercial city in Asia Minor. The Apostle Paul spent nearly 3 years in Ephesus, before he was driven out of the city by a riot stirred up by Demetrius the silversmith (Acts 19:23-34). It is from this city that Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians. In addition to walking the streets of this ancient city and visiting the theater, we will also visit the famous Terrace Houses, the place were the most important people of Ephesus lived. We will also visit the remains of the ancient Temple of Artemis.
In the evening we will travel to Izmir, where we will catch a flight to Istanbul at 3:05 pm and arrive at 4:20 pm.
July 19: Depart for Home - Evening
After three weeks traveling through the Bible Lands, our trip has come to an end. While it will be good to be home, you'll never forget the experience we shared together.
After arriving in Istanbul at at 4:20 pm. We have three hour layover. We fly to Dubai at 7:25 pm on Emirates #122 and arrive 4:35 minutes later at 1:00 am (July 19). We then have a 7:30 minute layover in the airport. Our flight back to Seattle leaves at 3:20 am on Emirates #229. It is a 14:35 flight, arriving in Seattle at 11:50 am (July 19)---what a long night, but at last we are back in the USA!
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