Troublesome Topic: The Possible Symbolism of Ephesus

What the city was known for: Ephesus was a strong commercial center, and possibly the most important city in Asia at that time. Its religious tone was very base, or vile, and was sometimes hostile to Christianity. Its markets offered many forms of decadence. It was also a center of the magical arts.

Their most prominent deity was named Diana, also called Artemis.

The story found in Acts chapter 19 is key to understanding what believers who lived in Ephesus went through. At one point the makers of the idols of Artemis got up in arms because Paul was hurting their sales. They got people worked into a frenzy and then the crowd started moving toward the large amphitheater. Most of the people did not even understand why they were gathered in the amphitheater; they had simply gone along with the crowd that was rushing that direction. Someone shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians,” and everyone joined in, sensing that somehow their beloved goddess was being threatened. They shouted those words for two full hours! That is fanatical idolatry.

This was not a persecution from the authorities, for a person of authority in the city was the one to calm them down, fearing harsh action from the Roman garrison. This was persecution from the common people of the city. It was the pressure of popular culture.

Believers today, in America and various parts of the world, face pressure from popular culture. In Paul’s case the pressure was not subtle, but it can be, and when it is subtle it is very hard to fight against. We do not realize how much influence our culture has over us.

What the city’s name meant: The Name “Ephesus” means “desirable.” It was desirable for the fulfilling of sinful cravings, but not desirable for spiritual growth. The irony is that the very characteristics that made it desirable in a worldly sense made it undesirable for the people of God.

The next lesson is: The Possible Symbolism of Smyrna