Today’s guest blogger is Liz den Otter. Enjoy!
We started our day hiking to an awesome overlook of Ephesus – through the bushes and over and along the centuries old walls. I have a new appreciation of how Absalom could get stuck in an oak tree – it’s more like holly here, and we got stuck a few times! Sitting on the edge of a cliff, RVL gave us a brief overview of the city layout, along with the history and timeline of when Paul and later John lived in the city. It’s a massive site, so this made it much easier to place the various buildings when we were walking around. The Gospel of John and later, Revelation were probably both written here.
Walking into the city, we were introduced some more into the Roman world and the type of environment the early Christians were experiencing. We spent the morning learning about Paul’s interaction with the Ephesian church and focused on John after lunch.
Knowing the culture of the Artemis cult brings new meaning to Paul’s instructions on how to live our lives. Paul writes in his letter that he has heard about the Ephesians’ faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and their love for all God’s people, and he challenged us to show the same love in our lives.
After lunch, we switched to John and explored how the book of Revelation would have been interpreted by its original audience – a church just beginning to be persecuted by the Roman Empire. It was amazing to link the symbolism written by John to what the Ephesian church would have seen in the parade celebrating Emperor Domitian as “lord of lords, and god of gods”. While we often try to use these images to predict what will happen at the end of times, the church in Ephesus probably saw it as God saying that yes, he was going to allow the Christians to suffer at the hands of the Romans, but he is in control and over all.
Maybe visiting the seven churches and learning more about the audience that it was written to will inspire Kevin to do a sermon series of this, so that you can hear some of what we have learned and we can all better understand this book that we often avoid.
P.S. Google: “Letter of Diognetus”