Revelation 2

Letters to the Churches, Part One


To the angel of the church in Ephesus write . . . (Revelation 2:1)

Ephesus was in every respect the leading city of Asia Minor, and it was one of the four great cities of the Roman Empire—the other three being Rome, Alexandria, and Syrian Antioch. Politically, it was the provincial capital of Asia, and it was the seat of the proconsul, the official who was set over the whole senatorial province of Asia (cf. Acts 19:38). The agora and small theater shown here are located in the upper city.


To the angel of the church in Smyrna write . . . (Revelation 2:8)

Smyrna (modern Izmir) was a thriving commercial center, noted for its splendid architecture and natural beauty. Two ancient cities are located here. Old Smyrna was founded in the Archaic period and was one of the principal ancient Greek settlements in western Anatolia. It was located on a small peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus at the northeastern corner of the inner Gulf of İzmir, at the edge of a fertile plain and at the foot of Mount Yamanlar. Today the archaeological site, named Bayraklı Höyüğü, is approximately 770 yards (700 m) inland. These arches once supported the western stoa of the state agora at Smyrna.


And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write . . . (Revelation 2:12)

Pergamum is the name from which the word parchment derives (Latin pergamenus), because Eumenes II of Pergamum helped popularize the use of animal skins as a writing material. In connection with the parchment industry, Pergamum developed a library which housed an estimated 200,000 books. This established Pergamum as a center for learning that rivaled Athens and Alexandria. The wealth and prominence of this city also made it a political center in Asia Minor, along with Smyrna and Ephesus. The metropolis was situated on the plain of the Caicus River, with a citadel rising some 1,300 feet (400 m) above it.


To the angel of the church in Thyatira write . . . (Revelation 2:18).

Thyatira was situated on the Lycus River (but a different Lycus River than the one near Laodicea and Colossae). Little is known about the city due to its relative insignificance (it was the least significant of the seven cities) and the lack of extensive archaeological excavations at the site. The ancient site of Thyatira is now largely covered by the modern city of Akhisar.


To the one who overcomes . . . (Revelation 2:16)

The letters to the seven churches repeatedly promise rewards to “the one who overcomes” (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; cf. 21:7). The verb “to overcome” (Gk. nikaō) means to win or prevail in the face of obstacles. It is a keyword in the book of Revelation. Of the 28 occurrences of the word in the New Testament, 17 appear in Revelation. Conquest and victory were personified as the Greek goddess Nike (known to the Romans as Victoria), and she was often depicted with the palm branch and wreath, both symbols of victory. This relief of Nike was photographed at Ephesus.

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