Turkey Study Trip

Three More Churches

We left Izmir this morning, palm fronds sweeping the side of the bus as we passed through the narrow streets. Randy gave us a rundown on archeology, Thyatira, Sardis, and the Lydian kingdom.

The words on the milestones found on the road between Pergamum and Thyatira were, “To the Elegance of Thyatira.” Thyatira was a union town, a town of trade guilds. They were tolerant of sin. Christians cannot be tolerant of every behavior. Thyatira’s love tended toward blind affirmation. We can’t affirm what God does not. Jesus’s longest letter was to this tiny trade town.

Thyatira was a great place for farm to table food, as it is today. An army town that was a gateway to Persia, it had two roads going that direction. Trades, guilds, temples, banks, money, all were centered around Apollo, a son of god. Christians who didn’t participate in the system risked losing their job, hospitalization coverage, and burial coverage.

Jesus’s criticism of Thyatira was for their tolerance of Jezebel, who was causing the people to sin. Was it tolerance of participation in the guilds? Jesus was searching their minds. Were some participating in the guilds without believing in Apollo? Were some participating in the Christian church and their heart wasn’t in it?

We visited an archeological site from the second century, and a museum with exhibits of various time periods.

After a good lunch we visited ancient Sardis. Reference to Sepharad in the Bible may be Sardis rather than Spain. Coins were first minted here. The king became wealthy, more than any other king, except perhaps Solomon.

The church of Sardis deceived themselves into believing they were still alive. They were resting in the glories of the past. There is no deception like self deception. They lived in a relativistic and pluralistic society. Were they saying something like, We need to get along better with the culture?

The Kula Salihli Geopark has some of the most stunning ruins (oxymoron?) we’ve seen yet. The pillars of the temple of Artemis were so wide it takes five people to reach around them. The massive columns are 58 feet high.

Also part of the “first and only geopark in Turkey” is a restored bathhouse and gymnasium complex.

The church at Philadelphia received no scolding. But they felt insignificant and betrayed. Earthquake after earthquake and then Tiberius shut down the vineyard business. Two questions face a believer one time or another. Is God really good? For those in a ministry, Does my life really count? If we work for the praise of men we’ll be disappointed.

It may feel like Christians are losing significance in the cancel culture that is our society. But Jesus knows the doors that are closing and the doors that He’ll open.

The archeological sites for Philadelphia are sparse. But the story of the church was inspiring.

By Andrew Zimmerman

Excited about travel in the Bible lands!