Let’s start a journey on an old Roman road. This road was a major Roman mail route located in ancient Asia Minor–in modern-day Turkey–and part of the eastern regions of the world known as the Orient. The Latin word orient means “east” and literally means “rising,” as in the place where the sun rises.
Around this road, you could take a walk (a rather long one) and visit each of the seven churches listed in the book of Revelation in the order recorded in the scripture. You would come to each church as you walked clockwise from the west near the Aegean Sea, north along the coast, beginning at Ephesus, then to Smyrna, Pergamos, then east and back to the south to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally Laodicea.
Ephesus is the first church listed, so it must be of great significance in the story of the world and the Church as the Body of Christ. Jesus reveals Himself four times to the apostle John as, “I am Alpha and Omega,” only in the book of Revelation (see Revelation 1:8, 1:11, 21:6, 22:13). He is the beginning and the ending. He is the only Lord, which is, which was, and is to come. When the Lord addresses John, He declares He is the Almighty and directs him to write what the Lord reveals to him. Interestingly, the Lord chooses these seven specific churches in Asia Minor and separates them individually.
The Strong’s concordance and Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon suggest the word Ephesus from the Greek word ephesos is derived from a “foreign origin” and only describes it as a city in Asia Minor, the capital of Ionia under the Romans. Its literal meaning is “permitted.” The church of Ephesus, being first, could be revealing what has been permitted in the not yet perfected body. So, what has been permitted by the first church? What have they allowed?
Ephesus is listed as a city in Asia Minor. It was the capital of Ionia under Rome’s authority in Anatolia, the large plateau between the Mediterranean seas and the Black Sea. In the city’s earlier days, there was a familiar tribe that was said to have occupied the area. Many have watched movies and cartoons depicting this area’s founders from myths and stories passed down through generations. According to legends, a tribe of great and powerful female warriors known as the Amazons founded the city. It was known as the “city of the Mother Goddess” due to the worship of Artemis. She is also known as the pagan goddess Diana. Ancient etymology links Diana to words such as day, sky, heaven, and dia, meaning “god-like.” In Roman mythology, titles such as Diana Lucifer, or Diana light-bearer, are associated with her.
Diana Prince, or Princess Diana of Themyscira, is the name of Wonder Woman, the DC Comics’ super-heroine created during World War II by American psychologist William Moulton Marston. The character comes from the mythical Amazonian “island in the middle of a large ocean,” Themyscira, known as Paradise Island. Keep in mind Anatolia is the large plateau between the Mediterranean seas and the Black Sea. The island was said to be located in northern Turkey, which empties into the Black Sea. We see the first appearance of Artemis (Artemis Grace) as the super-heroine in the Wonder Woman vol. 2 #90 issue from September 1994 and she briefly held the title. How fascinating is it that history from one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the ancient eastern Mediterranean is said in Greek mythology to be founded by the Amazons and has been glorified in American pop culture? And there is proof that idol worship of their pagan goddess of the eastern lands, Artemis, or Diana, remains in the ancient city’s ruins to this day.
For additional information on Diana view the Dec-Jan 2022-23 issue of Glory Magazine pdf HERE
Did you know the Apostle Paul wrote of what the Ephesians were doing and about the pagan goddess Diana in the Bible? You can read the complete account in the book of Acts, chapter nineteen. Here is a synopsis.
Paul comes to Ephesus and finds disciples; however, being unaware, they had not received the Holy Ghost. Paul lays hands on them, and they are filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues and prophesying. He then goes into the synagogue and boldly proclaims the Kingdom of God, yet they do not believe him. Paul continued this for two years, so both Jews and Greeks who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus. Still, the Jewish people accused him of preaching a false doctrine, even though God gave him extraordinarily effective miracles, cleansing the sick from evil spirits simply by using handkerchiefs or aprons he touched.
Certain Jews began to immolate Paul, trying to cast out evil spirits in the name of the Lord Jesus, whom Paul preached. However, the seven sons of Sceva, a Jew and chief of the priests, were unsuccessfully doing this. The evil spirit knew of Jesus and Paul but did not know them. The evil spirit leaped from the possessed man upon them, overtook them, and they fled naked and traumatized. Everyone heard about it in Ephesus, which caused fear of the Lord Paul spoke of, bringing many to believe. They confessed and announced what they had been doing. Many were working, being busybodies, habitually working around the truth, caught in a cycle, and using the magic arts. They brought their books and burned them in front of everyone. The word of God vigorously grew and strengthened afterward.
THE GODDESS DIANA
Paul remained in Asia for a season as tumult arose about “that way” with respect to his teachings and how the Kingdom of God operated. A riot ensued after Demetrius, who made silver shrines of the goddess Diana, called the craftsmen and workers of the trade together. He made them aware of the impending loss of business and how it could also discredit the “great goddess Diana,” robbing them of their wealth and the goddess of her divine majesty. They were incensed and began crying out: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” With this, the whole city was filled with confusion and was put into an uproar. (Please note that Diana is used in the King James Version of the Bible, and Artemis is used in the New International Version. Talk about confusion.)
The crowd snatched Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, and hurried them into the theater, where they told Paul not to go. The disciples would not let Paul appear before the crowd to speak. Again, confusion abounded, with one person yelling one thing and others something else. There were even people present who didn’t even know why. Out of the throng of people, the Jews forced Alexander to the front, and he tried to quiet the crowd to make his defense before the people, but they knew he was a Jew from Judah (Ioudaios). For two hours and with one voice, they shouted, “Great is Diana of Ephesians.”
The city clerk was present and addressed the crowd saying, “‘Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case, we would not be able to account for this commotion since there is no reason for it.’ After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly”(Acts 19:35-41 NIV).
(Note: Jupiter is translated in this NIV version as heaven. In the King James Bible it’s the Greek word diopetes which means “fallen from Dios or Zeus,” i. e. from heaven; also a silicate mineral meteorite.)
The location of Ephesus has been moved around by previous rulers and from flooding. Yet, it has remained in the same general location. It was re-founded after the migration of the Greek Ionians and is mainly known as a Grecian city. It eventually became a very wealthy city along the Mediterranean trade route. It was also known for its association with the goddess Artemis, having a large temple dedicated to her by King Croesus that was later destroyed by fire. However, the Temple of Artemis reconstruction continued during the years of turmoil.
Later, after being under Persian rule and liberated by Alexander the Great, Ephesus was named Arsineia by one of his generals after his death. Despite the renaming and expansion of the city, the native Ephesians eventually re-founded the great city port of Ephesus. It then came under the Roman Empire, and even after suffering a massacre, earthquakes, and upheaval, it regained its position of great importance along the trade routes of Asia.
Christianity became the religion over the region, and worship of Artemis and the pagan culture was forbidden. This led to the ancient temple of the goddess being destroyed again. The Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which no longer exists.
Early Visitors to Ephesus
Some early Christians of importance were visitors to the city, which remains a Christian pilgrimage location. The Apostle Paul preached there and is the author of the book of Ephesians. And did you know the Catholic shrine, the House of the Virgin Mary, where Mary’s last residence may have been, is located in Ephesus?
Visions and revelations from a Roman Catholic nun named Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, written in two books by Clemens Brentano, were used to locate what some believe is the House of the Virgin Mary, residing just a few miles outside of Ephesus. These visions described the stone house the Apostle John (Ioannes in Greek) built for Mary, the mother of Jesus, for the remainder of her earthly life (see the Gospel of John chapter 19:18-30). The small stone structure is situated on Mt. Koressos (Mount Nightingale), overlooking the Aegean Sea and ancient Ephesus. Muslims also venerate the Virgin Mary as the mother of the prophet Jesus but do not believe He is the Son of God.
The Catholic Church has neither confirmed nor denied its authenticity. Yet, it is a Catholic pilgrimage site with the status of a Holy Place and has been visited by Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Each year on August 15th, there is a customary public ritual of worship to honor the Assumption of Mary. This is one of the four Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church, where the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary were brought into the presence of God. However, early traditions believe the Assumption of Mary occurred in Jerusalem, not Ephesus. In Jerusalem, there is a cave situated in the Kidron Valley at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, considered to be the tomb of Mary. Tradition also equates her with the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” found in the Book of Revelation chapter twelve. Still, other areas with their own traditions claim her burial site, but none have been verified.
For additional information on the House of the Virgin Mary view the Dec-Jan 2022-23 issue of Glory Magazine pdf HERE
Still, another Holy House resides in Loreto, Italy, and is called the Basilica Della Santa Casa (Basilica of the Holy House). Saint Pope John Paul II called it “the house of all God’s adopted children.” Tradition states the Holy House was rescued from the Holy Land by Crusaders in the 13th century, and items were saved from Muslim invaders and transported to Italy by the Angeli family. Thus, the legend that the house was moved by “angels” would be correct since Angeli means “angels” in Latin and Greek. The site in Nazareth was compared to the stones of the lower walls of the Holy House, and they were found to be similar.
I encourage you to look up both of these if you want to learn more. It is intriguing that to this day, a woman is celebrated in Ephesus. In our hearts, are we celebrating someone we discern is of the first love or of those who have forgotten from where they came? Are we celebrating one with true power or one with only the power to create stumbling blocks? Are we celebrating traditions and not harkening to the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who God sent to teach us all things and bring to our remembrance what Jesus, the Christ, the Word said? (See Deuteronomy 28:1-14 for the blessings of God for the faithful and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 for the curses of the disobedient.)
Ephesus, Jesus says, has endured and possesses constancy and patience. They have labored and not grown weary; still, they are “found wanting.” They had left their first love. They are told to remember where they had come from (Rev. 2:5), to repent, turn away from their works, think differently, renew their minds, associate with the Holy Spirit, and return to their first love. Do the first works as Paul did and be filled with the Holy Ghost and power.
Jesus mentions their ability to detest the work, the acts, and the teachings of the Nicolaitans. They were the ones having the error of Balaam, upholding the liberty of eating things sacrificed to idols as well as committing fornication, both physically and spiritually, through magic and witchcraft.
Balaam should have paid more attention to the Angel of the Lord (see Numbers chapters 22, 23). You cannot curse who God has not cursed, nor defy, who the Lord has not defied. These acts are stumbling blocks for the church of God. Does that sound like the Ephesians? Were they sacrificing their time and possessions to idols and venerating them above God? Was money to be made by these acts? How about what is happening today in the world? Do we choose to seek good, and not evil, that we may live? And are we discerning the spirit in which something comes?
A church found wanting–just like the Ephesian church–is one that has permitted the ways of this world to cloud their minds. Yet, God declares, those who hear the Spirit will be given the power to overcome and eat of the tree of life, which is “in the midst of the Paradise of God.” The only paradise to seek is one not of this world. It is not one found in Asia, built by man’s hand and located in the idols of wood, silver, or gold that remain without power, nor found in traditions and habits. The only paradise to seek is one built from our first love, our uttermost desire, to return to the One who loved us first, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May the celebration of His birth this holiday season be a reminder that our eternal paradise lies in the reconciliation with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen, and Merry Christmas!
Feature Image: Bigstock.com | Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the KING JAMES VERSION of the Bible.| Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide