Last week we began looking at the city of Ephesus, the first of the seven churches of Revelation. We follow the letter carrier - a slave called a "tabellarius." This was a slave that had earned a high degree of freedom. There is a good chance that the apostle John requested the specific tabellarius to be the carrier of this book to each church.
The letter carrier would travel the 60 miles by boat from Patmos to Ephesus. Here is a picture of how wild the seas can get in this area. Fortunately, we were aboard a medium size cruise ship. But back then, their boats were really small vessels, and would rock violently in stormy waters like these.
In the first century, Ephesus was a major sea port. It was by far the greatest city in Asia Minor. Of all the great cities of the ancient biblical lands, Ephesus is the best preserved. No modern city was built over it.
Much of the central area of the city has been uncovered, although, on our recent trip there, our guide told us only an estimated 15% of the city has been unearthed. I don't think anyone who visits this city will ever forget it. In many sites it takes a great amount of imagination to fill in the gaps between ruins. But at Ephesus, only your eyes are needed to appreciate its former beauty and grandeur.
Here is a high level photo of some of the ruins of Ephesus ( I did not take this picture). As we follow the route of the tabellarius, we arrive at the harbor, and after disembarking, we would enter the city using the Harbor Road. Here is where the harbor would have been in the first century. The apostle Paul would have disembarked at this same harbor during his second missionary journey, some 44 years earlier. Lining both sides of the Harbor Road would be several rows of colonnades and many statues. And along the road, one would find many public buildings. You would also find a few homes and shops.
In our last lesson, I took you back to the time of the Apostle Paul. I want to provide you with some background information. I believe this will help us to understand a couple of statements made in Revelation. I also believe that understanding the society and customs of ancient Ephesus will also help us understand a number of other Passages outside Revelation.
Ephesus was one of the earliest Christian centers. The gospel came to the city at the time of Paul's second missionary journey. This would make it probably AD 51.
I want to take you to Paul's third missionary journey. According to Acts 20:31, Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus during this journey. That is more than he spent in any city he visited. At the time of Paul, Ephesus was a rich city and was pagan to the core. Many of the demonic magical arts - occultic activity - were practiced in this city. Ephesus must have appeared as the ultimate challenge for the gospel.
Let's continue our walk along the Harbor Road. On the left as one comes in from the harbor, you would find a large gymnasium and bath house. These were very important in all cities. Travelers, whether a merchant or a tourist would want to clean themselves after arrival. Just before you would get to the theater, also on the left side, you would find another gymnasium.
Somewhere near here, you would find the School of Tyrannus. In effect, that probably makes Ephesus a college town. The name Tyrannus comes from the same root as our English word "Tyrant". This was not a very common name in those days. This has prompted some commentary writers to wonder whether the name was given by his parents, or by his students.
As I mentioned, the name Tyrannus was not a common name, but they have discovered the name among the inscriptions found in Ephesus. The school of Tyrannus was a place where many philosophers and teachers would assemble their disciples to learn what they had to teach. This school actually has biblical significance.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE MIGHT BE?
We read about it in Acts 19:8-10.
8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.
9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.
10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
For those who want our churches today to meet exclusively in homes just as the early church did, here is one instance where a church also met in a school for two years. And so, meeting in large buildings to accommodate more people is not unbiblical and neither is meeting in houses. In fact, the church did not begin as a small unit in someone's house. On the very first day of the church's existence, There were at least 3,120 people in attendance.
You notice in this passage that Paul began his ministry, as he always did, in the synagogue. The fact that he continued in the synagogue for three months probably means that he had some success there.
Look back to the previous chapter - chapter 18. This records Paul's ministry in Ephesus on his second missionary journey.
Acts 18:19-21 NKJV
19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent,
21 but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing." And he sailed from Ephesus.
We see here that Paul had made an impression on those in the synagogue more than a year earlier. They asked him to return. He told them he couldn't at that time, but, Lord willing, he would come back. Some non-biblical authorities of those days, and the RSV has a margin reference that says Paul held church "from the fifth hour to the tenth." This would make it from 11 AM to 4 PM in our time schedule.
This was in keeping with the known break in the classroom schedule of that time. They would have classes in the early morning and late afternoon when the temperature was not at its hottest. That meant that the church met during the hottest time of each day without air conditioning. And they continued this arrangement for two years. This also was in keeping with the daily work schedule. They would take off 5 hours in the middle of the day to take their siestas. All the shops usually closed their doors during this time of day as well. Their workday usually began at about 7 am until 11 am. They would begin again at 4 pm and go until about 9:30 pm.
Let's continue our walk along the Harbor Road. I should mentioned that if you want to do some extra study of the city of Ephesus, you will find some documents and some maps that call this street "Arcadian Way." Here is a map I copied from the internet which calls it such. It would not have been called Arcadian Way during the apostles' time. Flavius Arcadius was the Roman emperor from 395 to 408 A.D. During his reign, this street took his name.
The theater at the end of this road is one of the largest outdoor theaters in the world. It would hold nearly 25,000 people. I might also say that not only could their streets be used today, this theater has lasted for over 2000 years. The Seattle Kingdome did not last 25 years, and at this time, I believe we are still paying for it. That is not meant to be anti-government sour grapes. It's just that I have gained a very high appreciation for Roman technology. When I consider Safeco Field, where the Mariners play, I must admit it is an impressive stadium. If it is still as impressive one hundred years from now, that will be an accomplishment.
Let me share with you an interesting piece of information. Dr. Joe Fuiten, along with our own Dr. Braddy, were the leaders on our visit to Turkey and Greece. After returning from the trip, I asked Dr. Fuiten for a copy of his book, "The Revenge of Ephesus." He is pastor at Cedar Park Assembly of God church. I drove up to Bothel to get the book, and Dr. Fuiten's secretary, Sheila Shipley, found a draft copy for me. On page 11, I quote, "It (the theater) is still in use today for some events. Sheila Shipley, my secretary, graduated from High School in a ceremony held in that theatre."
As you look at the theater from the Harbor Road, we spent most of our time visiting places to the right of this picture. When I spoke to you right after our trip, I showed you only one picture of the areas to the left in this picture. Before we go to the church and deliver John's letter to the pastor, let me take you on a road to the left - that's north. If you were to walk on the Harbor Road all the way to the theater, you would find a street going only to the right. That street is called Marble Way.
But about 250 feet before arriving at the theater, you would find a road leading to the left. I haven't been successful in trying to find out the name of this road. Here is another picture from a different angle (a picture I did not take). This is a road that almost certainly all visitor to Ephesus would take back in Paul's time. It leads to the most significant place in all of Ephesus.
WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
I am speaking of the Temple of Artemis - the mother goddess. To the Romans, Artemis is Diana. The King James and NKJ Bibles read "Diana" while most of the others, like the NIV, read "Artemis." This temple is mentioned five times in the Bible, all in Acts 19.
During its existence, it was the largest building in the world, except for the Great Pyramid. This temple, called the Artemision, was 425 feet long, 220 feet wide and columns 60 feet high. There are 127 marble pillars. Here is a picture of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. The Temple of Artemis was more than 4 times the size of the Parthenon. It is believed that in the center of this temple was a huge statue of the goddess Artemis. Her image was one of the most sacred in all the ancient world, not just at Ephesus. This is corroborated in the fact that each of the 127 pillars were donated by a different foreign king - a symbol of her widespread influence. And 36 of them were overlaid with gold and encrusted with jewels.
The Greeks boasted that the sun sees nothing finer in its course than Artemis' temple. All the citizens of Asia recognized that this is the pride and glory of Ephesus. The religion of Artemis was a fertility religion. I believe one reason for her popularity among many nations, is because she shares common features of other mother-goddess deities of that region. I already mentioned that she is Diana to the Romans. She is identified with Cybele of the Phrygians, which is a name that Artemis also bore. In Cappadocia she was known as Ma. The Syrians knew her as Atargatis or Mylitta. The Assyrians and Babylonians called her Ishtar, going back to the time of Nimrod. Ishtar is very close to the Astarte, the goddess of the Phoenicians. She was also called Ashtoreth or Asherah by the Phoenicians especially near the city of Tyre. Tyre is the home town of Jezebel, wife of King Ahab.
Do you remember the event that takes place on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the false prophets. In 1 Kings 18 we can read about it. There were 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. A mother-goddess is a central figure of many ancient religions. She is closely identified with each of these mother-goddesses before her, but her image is different than all of them. Here is a picture of one of the sculptures found of Artemis. As you can see, she is multi-breasted.
The heart of Ephesus was the Temple of Artemis. It employed thousands of priests and priestesses. All priestesses were temple prostitutes. The temple influenced all the social and moral aspects of Ephesus. It even governed the economy. The temple became possibly the first international bank. People from all over the world deposited money there, which in turn was loaned out at a high rate of interest. Thus the Ephesians became extremely wealthy, and naturally were protective of the goddess who had made them successful.
The temple was originally built in about 800 BC. It was damaged on several occasions, but was rebuilt. The temple that stood there when Paul and John were in the city was built some 300 years BC. On the night of July 21, 356 BC, a man named Herostratus burned the temple to the ground. He was trying to immortalize his name, which he did indeed.
Oddly enough, Alexander the Great was born on that very night. When Alexander conquered Asia, he offered to rebuild the Temple of Artemis. The Ephesus city leaders did not want Alexander's name to be carved on the temple, but, at first, they didn't know how to say "no". They finally responded, "It is not fitting that one god should build a temple for another god" And Alexander did not push the matter. The temple was rebuilt shortly after Alexander's death in 323 BC.
Here is a picture of the temple today. This temple was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Not much is left of one of the greatest building ever constructed.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE OTHER 6 WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD WERE?
1. The Great Pyramid of Cheops
2. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
3. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
4. The Colossus of Rhodes. Here is the current harbor at Rhodes, which was one of the islands we visited this past April.
5. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
6. The Lighthouse of Alexandria
By the fourth century, most of Ephesus had been converted to Christianity. This was greatly helped by emperor Constantine, who stopped all Christian persecution. The final chapter on the Temple of Artemis occurs in 401 AD, when John Chrysostom, one of our early church leaders, tore the temple down. I may say more about this temple in later lessons. But, for now, let's make our way back to the theater.
IS THERE ANY BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE CONCERNING THE THEATER HERE?
Acts 19 speaks about a riot that broke out in this theater because of Paul's successful ministry. Let's read part of the account.
Acts 19:11-29 NKJV
11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,
12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."
14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"
16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.
19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.
20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.
24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no small profit to the craftsmen.
25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade.
26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands.
27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship."
28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"
29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions.
Near the end of the three years Paul was in Ephesus, an anti-Christian riot takes place. The instigator is a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who was in the business of making and selling silver images and idols of Artemis. First, he gets all the craftsmen that made the idols and tells them their financial success is being impacted by the fact that so many people were being converted to the ministry of Paul.
It is interesting that, like the name Tyrannus, the name Demetrius has been found among the first century inscriptions in Ephesus. Since Demetrius was a fairly common name at that time, we cannot say with assurance that it is referencing the same Demetrius. Demetrius and the craftsmen were being hit hard in the most sensitive part of the human anatomy - the pocketbook.
First, I want you to notice that in verse 23, the followers of Christ are called "The Way." In its early days, Christianity was called "The Way." Acts 11:26 tells us that followers of Christ were first called Christians in the city of Antioch. But that designation took time in finding its acceptance in all of Christianity. This is the second time the designation - the Way - is used in this chapter. We read it earlier. We noted that after 3 months speaking in the synagogue, some Jews hardened their heart, and verse 9 says they publicly maligned The Way. The phrase "the way" is also found in: Acts 9:2; 24:14, 22. This is not just one idea among many ideas. "The Way" of the Bible brings us to a person - Jesus Christ - who says of Himself: "I am the way…" (John 14:6)
Let's return to Demetrius in Acts 19. He agitates the people, and in mass hysteria and frenzy, they run into the streets and flow to the great theater. Arriving at the theater, they shout for hours their support for Artemis and their opposition to Paul and his message. The unruly crowd is only quieted by the threat of Roman justice.
There are two very interesting and revealing things about this speech by Demetrius.
First, he was evidently quite unaware of how ridiculous his charge really sounded. If Artemis was so great that the whole world worshiped her, then why was she not able to defend herself against this attack?
Secondly, Demetrius was obviously blind to the significance of how his trade had been ruined. It had not been openly attacked by Christian, as it came out when the town clerk spoke later.
Before we look at what the clerk said, I want to make a couple of statements. First, a city clerk during the Roman era would be like our city mayor is today. He is a high-ranking official. So for him to step in and come to Paul's support is no small thing. Secondly, you may remember me, on several occasions, telling you that Paul had a way of becoming a friend of high level official. That occurred in many cities. It happens here in Ephesus twice.
Let me take you back to shortly after Paul's experience on the Road to Damascus. He has an encounter with Jesus, and he was struck blind by the great light. His servants led him to the city of Damascus. In Damascus, God had a servant by the name of Ananias. God tells Ananias to go and pray for Saul to receive his sight.
Acts 9:15 NKJV
15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel."
Notice that he is to bear the name of Christ before kings - high level people. Not all the people in authority came to the Lord. In Acts 26:28, king Agrippa says he is almost persuaded to become a Christian. When a charge was brought against him in Corinth, it was brought to the Roman proconsul, Gallio, where it was dismissed out of court. It is also true here. The city clerk defends Paul and his group against the accusations of Demetrius. And yet, he was not converted to Christianity.
Acts 19:35-37 NIV
35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: "Men of Ephesus, 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?
36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash.
37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.
It is obvious that this city clerk is still a worshiper of Artemis. But he comes to the defense of the Christians. Notice closely the words this city official uses. He said that Paul and the others had not robbed the temple nor blasphemed Artemis. How would he know Paul hadn't blasphemed their goddess? He would only know that if he knew what Paul had said. He must have been observing Paul and his group.
On the way to the theater, the crowd grabbed Gaius and Aristarchus, dragging them into the theater - since they couldn't put their hands on Paul. When Paul got word of the commotion, he wanted to go and address the crowd. That's just like any preacher. They see a crowd and think it is a ready-made audience for a sermon. More seriously, when Paul wanted to go out to the people in the theater, some different ruling officials in the city sent word, begging him not to enter the theater. Let's read the scriptural passage.
Acts 19:30-31 NKJV
30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him.
31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater.
The city clerk mentioned earlier was an Ephesian official, not Roman. These officials in verse 31 are Roman. In the NKJV above, these people are called "officials of Asia." First of all notice that they "were his friends." Also, the word "pleading," in the Greek tense used, means their advice came to Paul repeatedly.
I like the New American Standard Bible in this case. Acts 19:31 NASB
31 And also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater.
This translation leaves the Greek word for these Roman officials as is, without translating it. I think that is appropriate, since that was their title.
Before leaving this area, I want you to notice one more statement made by the city clerk.
Acts 19:38 NKJV
38 Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.
This is another of those statements that may help us put a date on this event. Notice the word used is proconsuls - plural. A proconsul in Ephesus would be the Roman governor of a territorial province. They had no standing army, but they had great legal authority. There was almost always just one proconsul - not two or more. For instance, Acts 18:12 tells us that Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia (Greece). And in Acts 13:7 we read of Sergius Paulus, who was the proconsul of Cyprus. This is another high official that became a friend of Paul's. In fact, Acts 13:12 tells us that Serfius Paulus was converted to Christ.
So, what about more than one proconsul mentioned here in Ephesus? It might refer to AD 54 when Nero's horrible mother poisoned the ruling proconsul here, a great-grandson of Augustus Caesar in order to eliminate any rival to her son's rise to power. Two co-conspirators, along with her, temporarily filled the proconsul position here in Asia, hence the reference in the plural.
Because of the riot, Paul decides to leave town.
Acts 20:1 NKJV
1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.
Paul goes to Macedonia to encourage the believers there.
WHAT CHURCHES ARE INCLUDED IN THE TERRITORY OF MACEDONIA?
It would include: Philippi, Thessaloniki and Berea at a minimum.
From Macedonia, Paul and his group go to Greece. We are not told here what cities he visited in Greece. We know from other books in the Bible that he did go to Corinth 3 times. Most likely one of those would have been on this trip. We are told he was in Greece for 3 months. He retraces his steps, back through Macedonia. The last city he visits is Philippi. We are told he catches a boat heading for Troas. He stays 7 days in Troas, where, on Sunday, Paul preaches - and preaches - and preaches. His message went well after midnight, we are told. And a young man named Eutychus fell asleep while sitting in a third-story window. While sleeping, he falls out of the window to the ground and dies. Paul prays for him and the believers are comforted with Eutychus restored to life.
Paul sends his group on ahead to Assos, by boat. But he decides to walk there by himself, That's about a 25 mile walk. He joins the rest of his group at Assos. They catch a boat, stopping for the night at Mitylene, on Lesbos Island. They stay the next night on Chios Island. And the next night Samos Island, just off the coast of Ephesus. They arrive in Miletus the next day.
In Miletus, Paul sends a runner up to Ephesus, asking for the Elders of the Ephesian church to join him in Miletus. He gives them some words of wisdom, telling them to be careful in their oversight of the flock at Ephesus. He warns them that ravenous wolves will come in after he leaves, preaching a false gospel and pulling believers away from the truth. He prays with them, and bids them farewell. They knew this might be the final time they would see him. And then the first two verses of chapter 41, we read……
Acts 21:1-2 NKJV
1 Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them, we set sail,
running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.
2 And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.
Ephesian Christians and their environment and culture.
Now, how will the knowledge we now have about Ephesus and its culture help us in understanding what Christ says to this church in Revelation 2? We will get to that, but first, I want to make a few statements about how it has helped me, personally, to understand passages outside of Revelation.
An open door and many adversaries
I have already mentioned one example in an earlier lesson. You will remember that during his second missionary journey, Paul travels from Corinth to Ephesus, accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla. In Ephesus, Paul writes back to the church in Corinth. In his first letter to the Corinthians, we read in chapter 16, verse 9, these words: "For a great and effective door has opened for me, but there are many adversaries."
Now we understand where some of the opposition came from.
o From worshipers of Artemis
o From those who made money because of Artemis:
o Those who promoted pagan immorality.
o The very culture was stacked against this new church.
Paul and the wild beasts
Also in 1 Corinthians 15, we find a statement that almost seems out of context. 1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection chapter of the Bible. Read 1 Corinthians 15:30-32 (NASB) with me.
30 Why are we also in danger every hour?
31 I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
What is this statement about "fighting wild beasts in Ephesus?" You will remember that a week ago, I told you that Artemis was the goddess of fertility and wild animals. Most images found of Artemis has her surrounded by wild animals. She is their provider and they are her protectors. The wild beasts may be a descriptive expression that summarizes the religion of Artemis. We don't know that for sure, but it is definitely a possibility.
Some would say that it is a reference to the riotous people in the Theater, who were acting like a pack of wolves. Still others would attribute Paul's statement to the demonic spiritual battles he fought in Ephesus.
Now let's look at the Book of Ephesians.
This letter was written to the church in Ephesus while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. I believe it is true to say that all that Paul wrote in his letters are applicable to all Christian of all ages. But I also believe some statements made to the Ephesian believers were addressing specific conditions these first readers would understand perfectly.
Our riches in Christ
Paul begins his letter to Ephesus praising God for the multiplied blessings God bestows on His people in the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV) reads:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
This is not the way Paul begins his other letters, and this is no idle statement. In Verse 6, Jesus "freely" supplies his grace. Our forgiveness is based upon "the riches of God's grace."
I have a small commentary on the Book of Ephesians that my father gave me when I was a teenager. It was written by Ruth Paxson, and is titled: "The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian." In her book, she takes the first 72 pages to describe the wealth we have in Christ. Those first 72 pages are divided into 10 chapters, each addressing some aspect of the wealth of the believer. Here are her chapter headings:
o The wealth glimpsed
o The wealth bequeathed
o The wealth designated
o The wealth measured
o The wealth located
o The wealth deposited
o The wealth defined
o The wealth revealed
o The wealth unfolded
o The wealth realized.
Another more recent book that is still in print, is by Warren Wiersbe. It's title is "Be Rich" and is a small commentary on the book of Ephesians. Chapter 2 is called: "How Rich are You?" Chapter 3 is called: "Read the Bank Book." The Book of Ephesians deals with this aspect of our lives.
Paul rarely used this kind of language in his other letters. The question is, why does Paul use this kind of language mainly here, and not in his other epistles? Like any good preacher, he is relating to his audience.
Ephesus was a very rich city. People went there to have a good time and enjoy their prosperity. The buildings of the city had so much marble the people got tired of it, and began to paint over it just to vary the look. The wealth of the city was only part of the story. The religion of Artemis was a prosperity gospel. As I mentioned earlier, the Temple was used as a kind of banking function.
Aristides, a 2nd century rhetorician, helps us understand this.
"I am of the opinion that all men…know Ephesus well because of its internationality, its traffic, and the stay that one may enjoy there. They all go there as if to their own homeland and no one can deny the facts…that Ephesus is the general bank of Asia and the place one hurries to, to find credit."
Paul doesn't ignore this background to the Church in Ephesus. Instead, he uses their language and life experience to tell them who Jesus is and what He does.
The Ephesian believers understood lavishness. They understood multiplied blessings. But Jesus is not Artemis. His blessings are not necessarily of a material type. Ephesus may have its wealth and glory, but it does not compare to the wealth and blessings we have in Christ. The church is not some second class operation compared to Artemis of the Ephesians. We have the "riches of his glorious inheritance." (Ephesians 1:18) "Because of His great love for us" God "is rich in mercy." (Ephesians 2:4) The riches are realized in the heavenly realms so that in the ages to come people will see "the incomparable riches of his grace." (Eph. 2:7). These references of spiritual blessing and riches are absolutely true for all of us. But they had a special meaning and application to the materialistically inclined Ephesians.
A vast deposit of riches has been made for the Christian in the bank of heaven. It is the oldest bank in existence. It dates way back to B.W. - before the world was. It does not belong to time and earth, but to eternity and heaven. Unlike the banks on earth, it is as unshakable and steadfast as the triune God who founded it. Its doors are never closed day or night to a child of God, and a run on the bank of God will never deplete its available resources. In fact, nothing would please the heavenly Father more than to have a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment demand for its treasures.
He has placed a deposit for us in Christ of unsearchable riches that can be drawn upon according to our need and our desire.
The Temple of God
The next area where the culture of Ephesus should be taken into consideration is in Paul's discussion of the temple. Probably the best known fact about Ephesus was the Temple of Artemis. At the time it was the second largest building in the world. Paul does not allow Artemis' temple to stand alone in its physical glory.
A number of the converts to Christianity had been Jews and Jewish proselytes. They would know about another temple in Jerusalem. Paul writes Ephesians in about AD 64, so that temple will last only another 6 years.
However, God has a temple that is better than either of those. God's temple covers more than the area of a football field, like the temple of Artemis. It is also more grand than that of Judaism's. It covers the world through the Gospel.
Furthermore, the believers are not strangers looking in. They, in fact, are the temple, having been "brought near through the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13).
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV) tells us:
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The Ephesian Christians (and us along with them) do not need to feel they have been deprived of anything. They no longer attend events in the Temple of Artemis, but nothing was truly lost. They still have a temple. They are part of this glorious temple, along with a long line of the great ones of God.
They didn't need to feel inferior or think of themselves as people without a temple. The church, as part of the true inner glory of our temple, is far greater than the beauty that the temple of idols only aspires to be. What they had as Christians was far greater than a leading wonder of the world. The believer's temple was supernatural, and far beyond this world and full of wonder.
The struggle with the surrounding culture
Artemis was a demonic manifestation, not just an image carved in wood or stone. To the people who lived in these and the surrounding pagan areas, the images, like that of Artemis, represented spiritual realities. We might call it mythology, but they called it reality.
This is true in many ways in America as well. Late in the nineteenth century we have the so-called age of Enlightenment. Religious realities gave way to "scientific" ideas. As such, the idea of our accountability to God, and the realities of the unseen satanic dimension were replaced with the "enlightenment" of scientific propositions, and the question of whether there in fact was a God or a devil was raised. Because of that, demonic issues were no longer part of our usual conversations.
But to the new believers in Ephesus, who had been raised and drenched in demonic realities, they saw the spiritual dimension as being very real indeed. They saw evidence of it every day of their lives. Paul simply urges them to stand strong against these demonic forces just as a soldier stands strong in the day of battle.
Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
The spirit realm is as real as the material. For the Ephesian, facing the demonic every day, spiritual conflict was inevitable between new believers and the non-believers. They couldn't go to the store or walk down the streets of Ephesus without passing images of Artemis. Additionally, many people were under her spiritual influence. Paul did not want the new believers to see them as enemies. They were neighbors.
The battle was not against even the staunchest defenders of Diana - like Demetrius was. The battle was with the very real spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Even those who were priests and priestesses of Artemis were not enemies. They were people blinded into believing they were serving a female goddess rather than the demonic force that actually lay behind the whole thing.
Ephesian believers with a changed identity
The next issue Paul addresses is the fact that these new Ephesian believers needed a new identity. How they thought about themselves needed to change. He stresses to them that the whole matter of our redemption and salvation was a mystery that was hidden through the ages.
In Ephesians, chapter 3, the mystery of the church and its ingredients are mentioned. In the Bible, a mystery is not something eerie. It is, rather, something hidden from previous generations but is now being unveiled by God through his servant - in this case, his servant Paul.
God has always given us bits and pieces, but there was never a clear picture in the Old Testament. You have heard me say in past lessons that the Old Testament does not mention the institution we now know as the church. Paul is saying, in Ephesians 3, that it is now being revealed.
If you will think about it, in Genesis God began to give a clue, didn't He? When Adam and Eve sinned God took animal skins to clothe them. God began to show us a clue that there is going to have to be a death and blood shed for sin to be dealt with.
Then later in the covenant with Abraham, He promises a seed, an offspring. There had to be a man to shed His blood and die. Isaiah prophesied there was going to be a Messiah. As a matter of fact, Isaiah 53 says, "He was pierced through for our transgressions." You begin to realize it was no ordinary man. This is the Messiah he is talking about, the Anointed One. The God/Man would die and shed His blood for our sins.
There were clues in the Old Testament all the way through. Many of the prophets did not even understand what they were prophesying, but now it has been made clear. After the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension, the mystery was revealed. Paul says, "I am overwhelmed." We don't know when God revealed it to him. Maybe it was on the back side of the desert for those first three years when Holy Spirit preached to him.
The mystery is that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, can be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ. For years, Gentiles had been shut out. Now the barrier has been torn down. Now the doors are wide open. The gospel is for whosoever might come. In Ephesians 3:6 Paul says,
"…that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
Paul explains the mystery - the gentile believers are now united to the Jewish believers into one Body. This body is called the Church (Ephesians 3:10).
Perhaps at this point, you are asking yourself the question, "Why did God keep His secret about the Church hidden for so many centuries?" Certainly the Old Testament clearly states that God will save the Gentiles through Israel. But nowhere are we told that both Jews and Gentiles will form a new creation, the Church, the Body of Christ. It was this mystery that the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul and other leaders in the early church. And this turned out to be difficult for the Jews to accept.
Then we come to Ephesians 3:10-11. Let's look at the context, beginning in verse 1.
Ephesians 3:1-11 NKJV
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles -
2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,
3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,
4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),
5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:
6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,
7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;
10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
When we come to verse 10, we see the mystery expanded. This mystery which is revealed to Paul was not just for mankind. God wants somebody else to understand the mystery of man's redemption and the church. Let's read it again.
Ephesians 3:10 NKJV
10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
The NIV read this way:
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
Verse 10 says there is another audience out there. Evidently it is an invisible audience. We are a visible audience.
We have Jews and Gentiles being converted, who become part of the Body of Christ. But there is another audience out there - one that we cannot see with our natural eyes. Let's focus on them for a moment.
The verses we just read tell us where this audience dwells. They live in the "heavenly realm" - heavenly places. I have two questions for you.
WHO ARE THE RULERS AND AUTHORITIES MENIONED HERE?
WHAT IS MEANT BY "HEAVENLY REALM?"
These are not the only times in the Book of Ephesians where these "rulers and authorities" are mentioned. And it is not the only time where Paul mentions the "heavenly realm."
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,
20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,
23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Following his resurrection, Jesus was raised up and seated in the heavenly places. And these heavenly places are far above principalities and power and might and dominion. But He isn't the only one. We are also included.
Ephesians 2:6 NIV
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
It should be obvious that the "heavenlies," in these cases, is talking about where God dwells. This is identified by Paul as the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2).
So, who are the principalities and powers being referenced here? They are angelic beings, both good and bad.