A group of 54 UCG members left for Turkey during the Days of Unleavened Bread to visit the sites of the seven churches of Revelation and other locations. The tour began in Izmir, Turkey, which is the site of the ancient city of Smyrna. From there the group traveled to the sites of all the churches addressed by Jesus Christ in Revelation 2 and 3.
Other cities were visited where churches and events mentioned in the New Testament occurred including Colossae and Heiropolis, both within a short distance of Laodicea, where extensive excavation in recent years has revealed the size and wealth of the city.
One of the best-preserved sites is that of Ephesus. Today one walks through a main street of the city past ruins of government buildings and pagan temples. The amphitheater where the riot of Acts 19 occurred has been restored. Sitting in the theater, the group heard the words of Acts read aloud describing the riot of the silversmiths and the chanting of the mob, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.”
The site of Miletus where Paul met with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 has the remains of a massive Roman amphitheater. Again, the group was able to sit on the site and hear a reading of Paul’s talk to the elders and then sing a few hymns which included the fitting and poignant, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”
A Beyond Today film crew accompanied the group with filming permits allowing use of a drone. Footage was taken that can be used in future productions including a planned documentary on the message to these churches.
The tour ended with two days in Istanbul, the city with three historic names, which include Byzantium and Constantinople.
On a visit to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the group was able to see three historic inscriptions from the land of Israel. Most interesting was the stone that sat on the Temple Mount carrying an inscription warning the gentiles not to venture beyond it into the Court of Israel. To do so could result in their death. This stone was found during the Ottoman rule in Jerusalem and taken to Istanbul. Paul comments on the division indicated by this stone in Ephesians 2:14 where he said Christ is “our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.” This stone is also historic proof a temple stood in Jerusalem during the first century A.D., something denied by Arab leaders in the tense political standoff between the State of Israel and the Palestinians.
It is hoped that future trips as part of an ABC continuing education program can be made to Turkey and other sites of biblical importance.