Tour Itinerary: Days 22-28
July 15: Hierapolis, Laodicea, Colossae
Today we visit the three churches in the Lycus River Valley: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae. Hierapolis is mentioned once in the New Testament. It occurs at the end of Paul's letter to the Colossians where he praises the work of Epaphras. Epaphras was a Christian from Colossae (Col. 4:12) who had become one of Paul's most beloved colleagues (Col. 1:7; Phlm. 23). Since Epaphras is mentioned in connection to Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae, it is likely that he was responsible for taking the gospel to the Lycus Valley.
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 eyesalve 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 spiritual 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 grand 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 16: Philadelphia, Sardis, Smyrna
Today we begin with a trip to the remains of ancient 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.
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 stop is the ruins of 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.
Dinner and Overnight the Kaya Hotel in Izmir.
July 17: 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 Hotel.
July 18: Miletus
This morning we visit Miletus, home of ancient philosopher Thales (640-546 B.C.), one of the fathers of Greek geometry, astronomy, and philosophy. It was here, in the first Christian century, that St. Paul, on his third missionary journey, called for the Ephesian elders and preached a powerful message to them (Acts 20:15-38). At the conclusion of his address he quoted an otherwise unknown saying of Jesus that has become famous, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). It was also here that St. Paul left his friend Trophimus, who was too ill to continue on his journey with Paul (II Timothy 4:20).
After lunch, we will drive to Kusadasi to enjoy some free time swimming or sunbathing on our own private boat in the Aegean Sea.
Dinner and Overnight Charisma De Luxe.
July 19: Ephesus
Today we 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.
Dinner and Overnight at the Charisma Delux.
July 20: Patmos
For our last full day of touring, we will enjoy the Sabbath by boarding our own private boat that will take us on a special journey to the island of Patmos. It was here that John was exiled for his faith, and wrote the book of Revelation. In Patmos we will visit the cave where tradition says he received his vision. We will also visit the monastery of St. John. Lunch is included at a lovely cafe on Patmos.
Dinner and overnight at the Charisma De Luxe.
July 21: Depart for Home
After nearly four 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.
We will be flying from Izmir to Istanbul in the morning. After a layover in Istanbul, we will tentatively fly to fly to Dubai at 7:25 pm on Emirates #122 and then on to Seattle on Emirates #227. Final flight details we be determined in September 2018.
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