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by Wayne Blank
The seven churches (Revelation chapters 2 and 3), located in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, were listed in their geographical order along an ancient triangular highway route, touching on The Aegean Sea. The island of Patmos, where John was given to write the book of Revelation, is just off the coast. Beginning at Ephesus, it was about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north through Smyrna, up to Pergamum, and then about another 100 miles back southeast through Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, to Laodicea, which was about 100 miles east of Ephesus.
Ephesus in its time was a leading city in that part of the world - the Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) gave it the title "the first and greatest metropolis of Asia." Its greatest non-Christian attractions were the pagan Temple of Diana, known as "Diana of the Ephesians," and its open theater, capable of containing 50,000 spectators - then largest in the world, and still very big in comparison to modern-day stadiums.
Paul first visited the city near the end of his Second Missionary Journey, about 51 A.D., while returning from Greece to Syria (Acts 18:18-21). He at that time remained only briefly, as he was hurrying to be back at Jerusalem for Pentecost, but he left Priscilla and Aquila behind to carry on with the work of the Gospel.
Paul returned to Ephesus on his Third Missionary Journey, arriving from an overland journey through Asia Minor. This time he remained for about three years, gaining such popularity that "all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the Word of The Lord." (Acts 19:10 NIV)
The apostle John, according to one tradition, spent many years in Ephesus, while caring for Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, as The Lord had commanded him (John 19:26-27). Some believe that both Mary and John are buried there.
Fact Finder: What sort of armor did Paul tell the Ephesians to put on?