July 8: Cappadocia
Located in Central Anatolia, Cappadocia was part of the "land bridge" connecting Europe and Asia--making it the place where a dozen empires have risen and fallen as they marched through this region. Today Cappadocia is most famous for some of the most amazing photogenic landscapes in the world--a wonderful reminder that God is our Creator.
During our visit we will explore the rock formations in the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys, the Citadel of Uchisar, and Goreme's breathtaking cave churches illuminated with resplendent Christian paintings and symbols.
Dinner and overnight at the Double Tree by Hilton - Hotel Avanos.
July 9: Smyrna
After an early morning flight to Izmir, we will visit 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.
Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Kaya, Izmir.
July 10: Pergamum
Today we drive north to Pergamum and then on to Thyatira, two 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.
Thyatira is praised in Revelation for its "love, faith, and patient endurance" (2:1), but it was rebuked for tolerating spiritual comprise from within. Thyatria is also known as the home town of Lydia, the seller of purple who Paul met in Philippi and baptized.
Dinner and overnight at Hotel Kaya, Izmir
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.
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 Hotel Kaya, Izmir