The Ephesus Church

By COGwriter

Ephesus Amphitheater

The Christian church began on Pentecost as essentially shown in Acts chapter 2, c. 31 A.D. (various dates have been proposed with 30 or 31 A.D. being the most likely) in Jerusalem.

While they were alive, each of the original apostles traveled to, and lived in, various areas. The apostles normally held leadership positions were they resided (e.g. Galatians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Apparently, the last of the original apostles to die was John. John is believed to have written his epistles from Ephesus. In his final years, he normally lived and led the churches from Ephesus (in Asia Minor, now part of Turkey), which is where he died.

'Ephesus' is mentioned 17 times in the New Testament (NKJV), plus there 3 references to pagan people identified as 'Ephesians.' But they were not all pagans as one of the Apostle Paul's letters was addressed to the saints of Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1).

Interestingly, at Jesus' direction, the Apostle John addressed the last book of the Bible to the seven churches of Asia Minor (around 95 A.D.), the first of which was Ephesus:

10 ... I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. (Revelation 1:10-13)

The seven churches of Revelation 1:11 are further addressed in Revelation 2 & 3. Some correctly believe that the true church should be traced through those churches. The Continuing Church of God and certain others claiming to be in the Church of God trace their history from the Book of Acts and through the churches eras of Revelation 2 & 3, starting with Ephesus.

These seven churches (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea) were in the cities with the sames names which were along one of the mail routes of the old Roman Empire.

Tracing the history of the Christian church through the churches of Revelation 2 & 3 gives strong indications of who the descendants of the true church are today. This tracing, which includes checking out doctrines taught, provides information that demonstrates that the true Church of God (COG) is neither Protestant nor Eastern Orthodox nor Roman Catholic, but is truly the church that holds the same beliefs as the original apostles.

In the Churches of God (the term Churches of God includes Sabbath-keeping churches who trace part of their more recent history through the Church of God, Seventh Day and does not include "pentecostal" groups that sometimes use that name), various of us believe that in the Book of Revelation, Jesus revealed that Ephesus would be the first in a series of seven churches showing the what would happen to the true Church of God (detailed information on this is included in the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3). The old 'mail route' in Roman times would have started in Ephesus as it was then on the coast of the Aegean sea.

This article will focus on the Ephesus portion (also called the Ephesus era) of the Church of God (for an historical overview, check out the booklet: Continuing History of the Church of God; this pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from c. 31 A.D. to the 21st century).

For some history, first, it may be interesting to know that when Augustus became Roman emperor in 27 BC, he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia (which covered western Asia Minor). Ephesus then entered an era of prosperity, becoming both the seat of the governor and a major centre of commerce. According to the Greek historian Strabo (who died in Asia Minor in 23 A.D.), it was second in importance and size only to Rome (Strabo . Geography, volume 1–7, 14.1.24. Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press).

A related sermon is also available: Ephesus Church Era.

Paul and His Writings

Paul wrote his famous epistle to the Ephesians to the church there, around 60 A.D., while he was imprisoned in Rome. Also, since Timothy was in Ephesus, the epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy also were sent to Ephesus around 62 and 67 A.D. respectively.

Here is some of what the Apostle Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Ephesians:

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: ...

2:1 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ ...

2:11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--

2:12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

So, we see this was a Gentile city that had Gentiles being called to Christ. God calls people of all ethnic backgrounds (see also God's Grace is For All).

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul makes clear that the Church was not just built on one apostle (like Peter) but was built on the foundation of the apostles (plural) AND the prophets, with Jesus as the CHIEF cornerstone, and including all the members in the church as well:

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22).

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Thus, it was to the Church of Ephesus that the foundations and offices of the true church was discussed. Church leaders received the laying on of hands, there and elsewhere (Acts 6:5-6, 8:17, 13:2-3, 19:6,17; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:2). And the laying on of hands continued to successive church eras (see also the article: see Laying on of Hands).

Ephesus was biblically important. Paul himself did many important miracles in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-17). He also said:

8 "I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great and effective door has opened to me" (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).

This shows that not only did the Gentile Church of God in Ephesus keep the Feast of Pentecost, it was in Ephesus that a great door to proclaim the Gospel was opened for Paul and the church (see also The Final Phase of the Work).

It was from Ephesus that Paul and the early church were able to reach all of Asia Minor:

1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus...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. (Acts 19:1,8-10)

Asia Minor clearly was the geographic focus of the early church after it originally being Jerusalem. And most in that region were Gentile, thus this was a good place for the apostle of the Gentiles/uncircumcized (Galatians 2:2,6) to work with.

29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

So, Paul warned that people that were part of the church would rise up, teach perverse things, in an effort to draw people to them.

Those in Ephesus were among those that left Paul:

15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day — and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus. (2 Timothy 1:15-18)

Records of church history suggest that the prophetic evangelist Timothy and the Apostle John were involved in rebuilding it.

The early Church in Ephesus was led by Paul for at least three years (Acts 20:17,31), then it looks like probably Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3). Some have claimed that Onesimus (Philemon 10; Colossians 4:9) was the "second bishop" after Timothy. Ignatius refers to Onesimus as a bishop of Ephesus (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 1)--but that one would seem to have not been the one mentioned in the Bible as there were at least five decades between Colossians and Ignatius' letter. Various among the Eastern Orthodox also list Onesimus in the succession for Constantinople (see Apostolic Succession)--perhaps there were two, three, or four of them. In Ephesus some have Onesimus followed by Gaius who Paul referred to as a host (Romans 16:25). Then later by the Apostle John.

Ephesus clearly was a Gentile church (Ephesians 2:11;3:1) that kept God's Holy Days such as Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8) and Passover/Unleavened Bread (as Polycrates’ later testimony indicates). Paul, who was given to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8) and approved to do so by Peter and John (Galatians 2:7-9), played a major role in the church at Ephesus, which was in Asia Minor.

Of course, the New Testament shows that Paul kept the Sabbath in Asia Minor:

13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down ... 42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath (Acts 13:13-14, 42).

1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed (Acts 14:1).

It should be pointed out that Antioch in Pisidia is in the middle of Asia Minor and that Iconium is also in Asia Minor. Hence Gentiles were keeping the Sabbath in Asia Minor from an early time.

Furthermore, notice something from an old (2nd/3rd century) document (that was probably altered in the 4th century), titled The Life of Polycarp, specifically mentions the  Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost. Notice that it shows that the Apostle Paul endorsed keeping them:

In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians...but named the days of unleavened bread, the Passover, and the Pentecost, thus ratifying the Gospel (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).

Thus, the "apostle to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13), taught Gentile Christians in Asia Minor to keep the Holy Days. Days many now consider to be Jewish and not Christian--but apparently Paul considered them important for all Christians to keep (see also 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 where he told the Gentiles in Corinth to keep them as well).

Peter, Rome, and Asia Minor

Since Rome is a Gentile dominated area, was there a bishopric for Rome given to Peter?

The Apostle Paul wrote the following, which is from the Rheims New Testament of 1582 (RNT)which is a Roman Catholic approved translation of the Latin Vulgate into English:

7. …. to me was committed the Gospel of the prepuce, as to Peter of the circumcision 8. (for he that wrought in Peter to the Apostleship of the circumcision, wrought in me also among the Gentiles) (Galatians 2:7-8, RNT).

These verses would seem to eliminate even the possibility that Peter was intended to be Bishop of Rome as it was essentially a Gentile city. As the letter/epistle to the Galatians was written approximately 50 A.D., at least that late, Peter was not considered to have been the Bishop of Rome.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, even admits about Peter, that “we possess no precise information regarding the details of his Roman sojourn.” (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York) 

No precise information means that the Roman Church has essentially relied on late accounts (which its scholars realize are not necessarily factual), that claim that Peter was in Rome and/or died in Rome.

We in the Church of God have long maintained that Peter initially held a preeminent position among the original apostles. Notice what the late Pastor General of the old Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, taught:

In founding God's Church, Jesus worked primarily through one man, Peter, even though He originally chose His 12 disciples. Few have ever noticed that Peter was the real leader. Acts 15: Here is the crux chapter, not generally understood ... The Jerusalem conference showed that PETER was preeminent over even Paul, although Paul was the ONE MAN God worked through primarily in the ministry to gentiles. ... (Excerpts from an article written by Herbert W. Armstrong, Worldwide News, c. 1978)

While accepting Peter’s leadership, we in the Continuing Church of God simply do not teach that he held the title “Bishop of Rome” or that he was succeeded by an elder in Rome named Linus who was supposed to rule over all Christendom. We believe that the Apostle John, who apparently outlived Peter by about 30 years and lived in Asia Minor, would have become preeminent some time after Peter’s death (see also Apostolic Succession).

In the 3rd century, Hippolytus of Rome wrote of Peter’s early whereabouts:

Peter preached the Gospel in Pontus, and Galatia, and Cappadocia, and Betania, and Italy, and Asia. (Hippolytus. On the Twelve Apostles.  In Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume V by Robert & Donaldson.  1885 Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, pp. 254-255)

Thus, even Roman accounts suggest that Peter could not have been in Rome very long, if at all, in the first century. And by Asia, Hippolytus means Asia Minor, home of places such as Ephesus.

The Bible also shows that Peter and Paul did not start the Church in Rome. Paul makes it clear in Romans 15:20-22. Paul did not found (nor co-found) the church in Rome. Also, the Bible indicates that no one prior to Paul preached publicly to the Jewish leaders there (Acts 28:17-23). 

This interpretation is confirmed by Eamon Duffy, a Catholic scholar and who was once a member of the Pontifical Historical Commission, who wrote (bolding and italics mine):

Neither Peter nor Paul founded the Church at Rome, for there were Christians in the city before either of the Apostles set foot there...all the indications are that there was no single bishop at Rome for almost a century after the deaths of the Apostles...

Neither Paul, Acts, nor any of the Gospels tells us anything direct about Peter's death, and none of them even hints that the special role of Peter could be passed on to any single 'successor'. There is…nothing directly approaching a papal theory in the pages of the New Testament...Paul's epistle to the Romans was written before either he or Peter ever set foot in Rome. (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, pp.2,6,8)

According to the so-called Apostolic Constitution of the year 270,  Linus was appointed the first bishop of Rome by St. Paul. After Linus came Clement, chosen by Peter. Yet, “the Catholic Church has made it a point of faith that popes are successors of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome.  But Peter never held that title; he was only invested with it centuries after he had died.” (De Rosa P. Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy.  Poolberg Press, Dublin, 2000, p. 15)

Today, Roman Catholics teach that Peter ordained, and was first followed by, Linus, who allegedly was followed by Cletus, and then Clement (Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes. Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997 and 2005 editions, p.1). That being said, it is likely that leaders such as Linus (possibly the one from 2 Timothy 4:21), Cletus, and possibly Clement were actual Church of God leaders in Rome during the Ephesus era.

As historians realize, certain Catholic writings simply are contradictory in regards to claimed early bishops of Rome. Notice the following admission by Catholic scholar and priest Richard P. McBrien (bolding mine):

Peter was not regarded as the first Bishop of Rome until the late second or early third century...History, "the teacher of life", teaches that there were no popes in the modern sense of the word (that is, as the sole Bishop of Rome) until the middle of the second century. Until then, the church of Rome was governed not by a single bishop but by a committee or council of elders and presbyter-bishops ... Indeed, there is no evidence that Peter himself ever functioned in an episcopal role in Rome. (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 28, 396)

Early reports, and even Roman Catholic writings, essentially admit there is absolutely no clear early proof that Peter founded an apostolic succession in Rome beginning with Linus—yet that assertion is now the official Roman Catholic position. It was not until the middle of the 2nd century that there were any who actually took the title “Bishop of Rome.” History shows that it was not until Anicetus (circa 155) that anyone was clearly considered to be a bishop of Rome. Some suspect that Pius, who apparently preceded him, may have been the first—but this is less certain than Anicetus.

This “Bishop of Rome” title may have been the result of Hegesippus coming to Rome and asking some of the Romans for the names of their early leaders. While it is recognized that Asia Minor and Jerusalem originally had bishops/overseers appointed by the original apostles (Van Hove A. Transcribed by Matthew Dean. Bishop. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company, NY. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York, pp. 581-590), since this was not the case in early Rome, his list of leaders were ultimately assigned dates of “reign” and posthumously were called “Bishops of Rome.” (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops, pp. 141-143).

Normally Called the Church of God

Why do we use the term "Church of God"?

Many people are unaware that the predominant biblical name of the true Church in the New Testament is “Church of God.” Variants of this expression are clearly stated singular and plural forms in twelve different places in the New Testament:

28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
(Acts 20:28-29)

2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)

32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, (1 Corinthians 10:32)

22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. (1 Corinthians 11:22)

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9)

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

1 To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia: (2 Corinthians 1:1)

13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. (Galatians 1:13)

5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); (1 Timothy 3:5)

16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:16)

14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, (2 Thessalonians 1:4)

The only other singular “church of” statement in scripture is a reference to the “church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23).

Throughout Christian history, the true church has normally used a version of the expression “Church of God” (or “Churches of Christ,” cf. Romans 16:16) though often with another term, like a geographic region (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1) or another word, with it (1 Timothy 3:15). However, critics tended to call them other names (e.g. Acts 24:5).

The term "catholic church" was ALSO used towards the end of the Ephesus era (outside of scripture) in a writing from Ignatius "to the Church of God ... which is at Smyrna, in Asia, ... wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church" (Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 0.0., 8.1, 8.2) and later in the Smyrna Church Era.

The Apostles Went to Many Lands

The Gospel of Mark teaches:

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;  18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. (Mark 16:9-20, NKJV)

In the book of Acts we see many travels as well as the demonostration of most the signs that are mentioned in Mark 16:17-18 (see also Should Mark 16:9-20 be part of the Bible?).

For example, “they will cast out demons” is shown in Acts 16:16-18; “they will speak with new tongues” is shown in Acts 2:4; 19:6;  “they will take up serpents … it will by no means hurt them” cf. Acts 28:3-5; “they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” is shown in Acts 28:8. Though we do not have a scriptural account of “if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them,” we do have an account outside of scripture that the Apostle John was put into a pot of boiling water and that he was unharmed (see Polycarp, Fragments from Victor of Capua). It was claimed by Tertullian in the 3rd century (Tertullian. The Prescription Against Heretics. Chapter 36. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885) that this seems to be why John was then exiled to the island of Patmos, which he mentions in Revelation 1:9. It was likely during the reign of Domitian (81-96 A.D.) that John was banished to Patmos.

History also indicates that the apostles “went out and preached everywhere”(Mark 16:20) as they proclaimed the gospel in various lands–not only the Middle East, but Europe, Asia (India and perhaps to Malaysi), and parts of Africa.

Outside the Bible and the writings of Ignatius and Polycarp, one of the earliest writings that claims to report where the original apostles went was put together in the third century by Hippolytus of Rome. Although I am not convinced that he is necessarily correct about Peter dying in Rome (I have seen evidence that Peter died elsewhere--but am simply not sure), Hippolytus' account does indicate that the apostles went to many lands. Notice what Hippolytus reported:

Where Each of Them Preached, And Where He Met His End.

1. Peter preached the Gospel in Pontus, and Galatia, and Cappadocia, and Betania, and Italy, and Asia, and was afterwards crucified by Nero in Rome with his head downward, as he had himself desired to suffer in that manner.

2. Andrew preached to the Scythians and Thracians, and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree, at Patrae, a town of Achaia; and there too he was buried.

3. John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan's time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.

4. James, his brother, when preaching in Judea, was cut off with the sword by Herod the tetrarch, and was buried there.

5. Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.

6. Bartholomew, again, preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward, and was buried in Allanum, a town of the great Armenia.

7. And Matthew wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue, and published it at Jerusalem, and fell asleep at Hierees, a town of Parthia.

8. And Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians, and was thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine spears at Calamene, the city of India, and was buried there.

9. And James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem. was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.

10. Jude, who is also called Lebbaeus, preached to the people of Edessa, and to all Mesopotamia, and fell asleep at Berytus, and was buried there.

11. Simon the Zealot, the son of Clopas, who is also called Jude, became bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just, and fell asleep and was buried there at the age of 120 years.

12. And Matthias, who was one of the seventy, was numbered along with the eleven apostles, and preached in Jerusalem, and fell asleep and was buried there.

13. And Paul entered into the apostleship a year after the assumption of Christ; and beginning at Jerusalem, he advanced as far as Illyricum, and Italy, and Spain, preaching the Gospel for five-and-thirty years. And in the time of Nero he was beheaded at Rome, and was buried there (Hippolytus. On the Twelve Apostles).

It may be of interest to note that according to Hippolytus' account, nearly all the original apostles preached in Judea and/or Asia Minor. And that is somewhat confirmed by the biblical account as well (Paul is the only one clearly who the Bible records went to Rome, though I at least one or two other apostles probably did as well). Some accounts claim that Thomas also went China, from India, but this is not certain.

As far as signs go, though we do not have a scriptural account of “if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them,” we do have an account outside of scripture that the Apostle John was put into a pot of boiling water and that he was unharmed (see Polycarp, Fragments from Victor of Capua). It was claimed by Tertullian in the 3rd century (Tertullian. The Prescription Against Heretics. Chapter 36. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885) that this is why John was then exiled to the island of Patmos, which he mentions in Revelation 1:9.

Furthermore, notice the following, related to the second century leader Papias of Hierapolis:

But it must be noted here that Papias, their contemporary, says that he heard a wonderful tale from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that in his time one rose from the dead. And he tells another wonderful story of Justus, surnamed Barsabbas: that he drank a deadly poison, and yet, by the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book 3, Chapter XXXIX; Digireads, pp. 68-69)

It may well be that Papias related this in order to show that the signs in Mark 16:17-18 had been shown to be accurate.

The Christians Were First Based Out of Judea

The Book of Acts shows that the Christian church began on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem:

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"
13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them,

"Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions,Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservantsI will pour out My Spirit in those days;And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven aboveAnd signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.'

22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him:

'I foresaw the Lord always before my face,For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life;You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'

29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

'The Lord said to my Lord,'Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'

36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
38 Then Peter said to them,

"Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."

41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:1-46)

So, the Christian church began in Jerusalem, which was part of the Roman state of Judea.

Later, the Bible shows that in the early church, Jerusalem, and never Rome, was where its leadership conferred on topics of importance (see Acts 15; Galatians 1:18; 2:1-9; also see the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome). Actually, three of the four times that the Bible shows that Paul conferred with Peter it was in Jerusalem (ibid). And the fourth time, it was in Antioch (Galatians 2:11).

Furthermore, notice that the Apostle Paul commended the Thessalonians because they imitated the Church of God in Judea:

13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Thus, the original Jerusalem Church is the standard that Paul compared a Gentile-area church with.

The Apostle John, according to the Apostle Paul, was one of the three "pillars" (important leaders) of the Church in Jerusalem along with James and Peter (Galatians 2:9).

But then there was a Jewish revolt in 66-70 A.D. Peter and James apparently died by 67 A.D. The Apostle John had apparently moved to Ephesus in Asia Minor by the time of the revolt.

Some scholars speculate that the flight of the last remaining members of the church at Jerusalem occurred on the Feast of Pentecost in 69 A.D. This is based on a writing from the first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who recorded:

Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost as the priests were going by night into the inner court of the temple...they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking and heard a sound as of a multitude saying, ‘Let us remove hence.’ (Josephus, Wars, bk. VI, ch. v, sec. 3; Whiston 1957:825.)

The Catholic Encyclopedia reports about the Christians there around that time:

When Titus took Jerusalem (April-September, A.D. 70) he ordered his soldiers to destroy the city...Meanwhile the Christian community had fled to Pella in Paraea, east of the Jordan (southeast of Jenin), before the beginning of the siege...The Christians were still almost entirely converts from Judaism (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", IV, v). After the destruction they came back and congregated in the house of John Mark (Fortescue A. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Jerusalem (A.D. 71-1099). The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The Orthodox Church takes a similar position:

The Church of Jerusalem, as the Mother of all Churches, during the first days of Christianity consisted the centre of life. From it, the Holy Apostles went to visit all nations and renounced the whole world (Marc. 16, 15)…The “Lord’s City” was completely destroyed in 70 A.C. by Titos, resulting to great and tragic consequences to the Judaist and Christian lives (Archim. Titos (Chortatos). THE CHURCH OF JERUSALEM. Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem May 24, 2005).

Of course, the Church that James, Peter and John led in Judea clearly retained several characteristics considered to be "Jewish."

Writing late in the fourth century, Epiphanius of Salamis reported:

... the disciples of the apostles ... it was revealed in advance to all the disciples by an angel of God that they should remove from the city, as it was going to be completely destroyed. They sojourned as emigrants in Pella ... But after the destruction of Jerusalem, ... they had returned to Jerusalem (Epiphanius of Salamis, Weights and Measures (1935) pp.11-83. English translation. Chapter 15. Transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2005, viewed 02/06/10).

The Christians, after the destruction of Jerusalem, built what is believed to be the first Christian church building, which was considered to be a synagogue. The archaeological evidence suggests the synagogue was built by Judeo-Christian refugees returning from Pella about 73 A.D. (see Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill).

Epiphanius of Salamis also reported that when the Roman emperor Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus) visited Jerusalem and saw it. It was a small "Church of God" and existed on the area called Mount Zion:

Hadrian ... went up to Jersualem ... And he found the temple of God trodden down and the whole city devastated save for a few houses and the church of God, which was small, where the disciples, when they had returned after the Savior had ascended from the Mount of Olives, went to the upper room. For there it had been built, that is, in that portion of Zion which escaped destruction, together with blocks of houses in the neighborhood of Zion and the seven synagogues which alone remained standing in Zion, like solitary huts, one of which remained until the time of Maximona the bishop and Constantine the king, "like a booth in a vineyard," as it is written. (Epiphanius of Salamis, Weights and Measures (1935) pp.11-83. English translation. Chapter 14. Transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2005, viewed 02/06/10).

The remains of that small Christian synagogue may be found in Jerusalem today incorporated into a building called the Tomb of David or Cenacle.

Many would be surprised what certain Roman Catholic scholars admit and teach about early church history.

For example, did you know that it was the written position of late 20th century Cardinal Jean-Guenolé-Marie Daniélou that church history has generally been mistaught and missed many aspects of what he called Jewish Christianity? He specifically wrote that this has led to a “false picture of Christian history” (Daniélou J, Cardinal. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminster Press, 1964, Philadelphia, p. 2).

There is historical evidence of a growing Judeo-Christian population observing the Sabbath and keeping the Holy Days at Jerusalem well into the fourth century (see also The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad). According to the 4th century Catholic historian Eusebius of Caesaria, starting in the 1st century:

James, the first that had obtained the episcopal seat in Jerusalem after the ascension of our Saviour ... But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella ... until the siege of the Jews, which took place under Adrian, there were fifteen bishops in succession there, all of whom are said to have been of Hebrew descent, and to have received the knowledge of Christ in purity, so that they were approved by those who were able to judge of such matters, and were deemed worthy of the episcopate. For their whole church consisted then of believing Hebrews who continued from the days of the apostles until the siege which took place at this time; in which siege the Jews, having again rebelled against the Romans, were conquered after severe battles. But since the bishops of the circumcision ceased at this time, it is proper to give here a list of their names from the beginning. The first, then, was James, the so-called brother of the Lord; the second, Symeon; the third, Justus; the fourth, Zacchæus; the fifth, Tobias; the sixth, Benjamin; the seventh, John; the eighth, Matthias; the ninth, Philip; the tenth, Seneca; the eleventh, Justus; the twelfth, Levi; the thirteenth, Ephres; the fourteenth, Joseph; and finally, the fifteenth, Judas. These are the bishops of Jerusalem that lived between the age of the apostles and the time referred to, all of them belonging to the circumcision. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book III, Chapter V, Verses 2,3.& Book IV, Chapter 5, Verses 2-4,  pp. 45, 71)

So the 1st and early 2nd century Christian leaders in Jerusalem were all circumcized Jews. Since these early bishops “received the knowledge of Christ in purity,” their teachings should have been continued.

Other early Christians settled in Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, Spain, Armenia, and probably Africa, Persia, India, Europe, and Britain (Ruffin C.B. The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles After Calvary. Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington (IN), 1997. Fox's Book of Martyrs. Edited by William Byron Forbush. Copyright 1926/1967.  Zondervan, Publishing, Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 3-5). The faithful ones had practices like the Church of God in Jerusalem did for its first century during the Ephesian era.

Although they have their own biases, even the historians Philip Schaff and Johann Gieseler correctly noted:

The Jewish Christians, at least in Palestine, conformed as closely as possible to the venerable forms of the cultus of their fathers, which in truth were divinely ordained, and were an expressive type of the Christian worship. So far as we know, they scrupulously observed the Sabbath, the annual Jewish feasts, the hours of daily prayer, and the whole Mosaic ritual (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Chapter 9. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.)

While the Jewish Christians of Palestine retained the entire Mosaic law, and consequently the Jewish festivals, the Gentile Christians observed also the Sabbath and the passover (1 Cor. v. 6-8), with reference to the last scenes of Jesus' life, but without Jewish superstition (Gal. iv. 10 ; Col. ii. 16) (Gieseler, Johann Karl Ludwig. A text-book of church history, Volume I, Chapter II. New York : Harper & brothers. Date 1857-80).

In other words, it is known that the true early Christians did keep the Sabbath and God's biblical Holy Days.

Although most of the true Christians fled to the town of Pella just prior to Titus' invasion, some later returned until about 132-135 A.D. when Emperor Hadrian responded to another Jewish revolt.

John to Ephesus and Patmos in Asia Minor

Of course not all early Christians lived in Judea as the apostles went into many lands. Believers were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26), a Syrian city just south of Asia Minor. For two years, the Apostle Paul was successful in getting the gospel message out to all in Asia Minor (Acts 19:10) from Ephesus (Acts 19:1).

The Apostles John and Philip settled in Asia Minor. 

John ... made his way to Ephesus to take over the “orphaned” churches of Asia, once superintended by the martyred Paul. This would have been around A.D. 66 or 67. (Ruffin C.B.  The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles After Calvary.  Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington (IN), 1997, p. 94)

C.B. Ruffin's date for John may or not be early (his basis, in my view, was in error). We are not certain the first time John lived there. But the belief that the churches in Asia were orphaned would suggest that leaders like Timothy may have remained part of the faithful leadership as long as certain traditions hold.

There is a belief that Timothy A.D. 96/97 (as one source claimed: Dionysius the Areopagite, Works (1897) pp.ix-xvi. Preface to the Divine Names., but other sources (like the above from Ruffin) hint that he left or died before then.

It has been long recognized that Ephesus had "apostolic succession." In the late second century, Tertullian wrote:

Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally...Since you are able to cross to Asia , you get Ephesus (Tertullian. Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 36).

In the 19th century, Francis Patrick Kenrick wrote:

Ephesus was an autocephalous see … which it derived from the apostles Paul and John, its founders (Kenrick FP. The primacy of the Apostolic see vindicated. Murphy, 1875. Original from Harvard University, Digitized Aug 26, 2008, p. 179).

The term "autocephalous see" means that it was on its own, as opposed to being dependent upon another church, like, for example, the Church of Rome.

Some have also referred to the church here as "the apostolic see of Ephesus" (Duchesne L, Jenkins C. Early History of the Christian Church: The fifth century Volume 3 of Early History of the Christian Church: From Its Foundation to the End of the Third Century. Longmans, Green, 1924. Original from the University of California Digitized Dec 11, 2006, p. 320). And furthermore, some in Celts/Kelts in the British and Ireland areas in the 7th century claimed to be descended from it (see also The Pergamos Church Era).

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that "the See of Ephesus, {was} founded by St. John the Apostle" (Gerland, Ernst. The Byzantine Empire. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 2 Feb. 2010 <>).

It has been written that John's successor there was Polycarp, "Polycarp, the successor of St . John in the see of Ephesus" (Wall JC. The first Christians of Britain. Talbot & Co., 1927. Original from the University of California, Digitized Sep 25, 2007, p. 34)--but Polycarp did not seem to be prominent over much of true Christendom until Jerusalem was taken over in 135 A.D.

Although historian F. Arundell has listed 70 so-called "bishops of Ephesus" (Arundell Francis V.  Discoveries in Asia minor: including a description of the ruins of several ancient cities and especially Antioch of Pisidia : in two volumes, Volume 2.  Bentley, 1834.  Original from the Bavarian State Library. Digitized Feb 9, 2010, pp. 272-273), he failed to name most of the early ones (though he did list Timothy, the Apostle John, Polycrates, and Apollonius) and has a gap of over 100 years after Apollonius (and it needs to be understood that during this gap, there was so much apostacy, that those he listed well after Apollonius were not faithful Christians).

But originally, Ephesus was recognized as important as the theologian and historian John M. Neale explained in 1850:

The See of Ephesus has always been esteemed one of the first in the Church … This dignity arose, not so much from the fact that Ephesus was the residence of the Proconsul of Asia, as because the Church there was planted by S. Paul, and regarded S. John as its second founder. That S. Timothy was its first Bishop, ecclesiastical tradition is constant in asserting: on his suffering Martyrdom, S. John is related to have consecrated a namesake of his own as second Prelate. From that time the See of Ephesus possessed Patriarchal authority over the whole Dicecese of Asia: till, as we have related, it became subject to Constantinople, not without many struggles … (Neale JM.  A history of the Holy Eastern Church, Part 1. Joseph Masters, 1850, pp. 35-36)

Notice that Ephesus was the real true church with “apostolic succession” and that it took struggles for Constantinople to claim to be above it. The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests that the Apostle John may have went to Asia Minor first during the reign of Herod Agrippa I (Fonck L. Transcribed by Michael Little. St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York), who reigned until 44 A.D., and that John later went back to Jerusalem and then later ended up in Ephesus.

In 2011, the a claimed Greek Orthodox group declared it could put up a succession list. That group has the following list:

Hierarchical Succession of the Patriarchal See of Ephesus

Bishops of the Apostolic Throne
1.   Apostle St. Timothy of the Seventy (65-80?) circa 80-95
2.   Apostle St. Onesimus of the Seventy (80?-97?) circa 95-97
3.   Apostle and Evangelist St. John The Theologian (65?-100?) circa 98-117 A.D.
4.   St. Polycarp of Smyrna (100?-156)
5.   St. Thraseas of Eumenia (156-160)
6.   St. Sagarius of Laodicea (160-167)
7.   St. Papirius of Smyrna (167-170)
8.   St. Melito I of Sardis (170-180)
9.   St. Polycrates of Ephesus (180-200)
10. St. Apollonius of Ephesus (200-210)
11. Camerius of Smyrna (210-220)

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Ephesus, of All Asiana, and the Americas. viewed 01/04/17

(It should be noted that the Bible refers to Timothy as an evangelist in Timothy 4:5 and neither he nor Onesimus were biblically referred to as apostles.)

This group partially refers to to itself as the Smyrnaean Orthodox Church (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Ephesus, of All Asiana, and the Americas. viewed 01/04/17)

While it is true that there was apostolic succession from the Apostle John and including all of those leaders, the Greek Orthodox are misleading all by trying to hint that they are the true successors of these leaders--it is only group's like the Continuing Church of God that have the same teaching of those leaders--the Greek Orthodox do not (see also Continuing History of the Church of God. Nazarene Books, 2014, pp. 45,50-51). As we would start with the Apostle John, we would call the list of successors Smyrnaeans, partially because of the time that Polycarp arose in prominence.

Getting back to the Apostle John himself, although the he John seemed to have been based in Ephesus after leaving Jerusalem, he reportedly was taken to Rome from Ephesus in Asia Minor, then suddenly exiled to Patmos, by Emperor Domitian, and, “after the tyrant's death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus” (Eusebius. Church History. Book III, Chapter 23). So John was in Ephesus, removed from it, then returned to it (and that is apparently where he died).

It has been suggested that Timothy (who Paul had once placed in charge of the church at Ephesus) was martyred sometime prior to John's return from Patmos (Aherne, Cornelius. Epistles to Timothy and Titus. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 18 Jan. 2010 <>).

The Catholic Encyclopedia records this about John:

John had a prominent position in the Apostolic body ... After the Resurrection John with Peter was the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and he was the first to believe that Christ had truly risen (John, xx, 2-10) …"the disciple whom Jesus loved". After Christ's Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, John took, together with Peter, a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the Church...the Apostle and Evangelist John lived in Asia Minor in the last decades of the first century and from Ephesus had guided the Churches of that province ... After Domitian's death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and at Ephesus he died about A.D. 100 at a great age (Fonck L. Transcribed by Michael Little. St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Therefore, it is no surprise since John outlived Peter and all the other original apostles that any church leadership succession would have transferred to him. Notice that even Catholic scholars admit that John guided the churches in Ephesus.

Notice also something that John wrote:

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:18-19)

John kept the Passover, and that was one of the earliest doctrines that the Church of Rome (as well as probably Marcus in Jerusalem, later) changed.

John did not keep the Passover according to the way it is now kept in Rome, but the way that Jesus and the Jews kept it. Notice what the medieval historian and Catholic Priest Bede (also known as “the Venerable Bede”) recorded from a Catholic Abbot named Wilfrid near the beginning of the eighth century about the Apostle John’s practices regarding Passover (inaccurately called "Easter" below):

... John ... literally observed the decrees of the Mosaic law … So John, in accordance with the custom of the law, began the celebration of Easter Day in the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, regardless of whether it fell on the sabbath or any other day...(Bede (Monk). Edited by Judith McClure and Roger Collins. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford University Press, NY, 1999, pp. 156-157).

It was on Patmos that John wrote the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:9-11), which was partially addressed to the Church in Ephesus. Here is what Revelation 2:1-7 teaches about Ephesus:

1 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,

'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;

3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.

6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." '

Interestingly, Irenaeus (circa 180 A.D.) noted this about Ephesus:

... the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses (Book III, Chapter 3). Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Emperor Trajan reigned from 98-117 A.D. (see also Timelines of Early Church History). It is generally felt that John did not live too many years into the reign of Trajan.

Regarding the Nicolaitans, notice the view of the Greco-Roman Bishop Victorinus in the late 3rd century:

"This you have also, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes." But because you yourself hate those who hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, you expect praise. Moreover, to hate the works of the Nicolaitanes, which He Himself also hated, this tends to praise. But the works of the Nicolaitanes were in that time false and troublesome men, who, as ministers under the name of Nicolaus, had made for themselves a heresy, to the effect that what had been offered to idols might be exorcised and eaten, and that whoever should have committed fornication might receive peace on the eighth day. Therefore He extols those to whom He is writing; and to these men, being such and so great, He promised the tree of life, which is in the paradise of His God. (Victorinus. Chapter 2, verses 6-8. Commentary on the Apocalypse. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)

The statement about hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans comes from Revelation 2:6 and relates to the Church of Ephesus. It was towards the end of the Ephesus era (c. 130-135) that the Greco-Romans began to adopt Sunday, which they and the Gnostics called the eighth day.

British Isles

Perhaps it should be mentioned that there are legends that the Apostle Paul and Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43; John 19:38) made it to the British Isles.

It has also been claimed Aristobulus (sometimes Aristibule in English) was one of the seventy Jesus sent out (Luke 10:1,17) and that he became the first bishop/pastor in Britain (Hippolytus. Where Each OF Them Preached, And Where HE Met His End. Translated by J.H. MacMahon. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886). It has been claimed he was the brother of Barnabas and was mentioned in Romans 16:10 (Holy Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy, first Bishop of Britain (1st c.). Ancient Faith, a department of Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, March 19, 2017).

Presuming that Paul, Joseph, and/or Aristobulus came to Britain, it would be logical to conclude that they would have originally held to Church of God, not Protestant, doctrines. Several historical reports point to that conclusion.

Some reports claim that the Church of God in Britain originally came from Asia Minor, like from the See of Ephesus:

The Keltic Churches of Ireland, of Galloway, and of Iona were at one with the British Church. These claimed, like Southern Gaul and Spain, to have drawn their faith from the Apostolic See of Ephesus. Their liturgies, or such fragments as have come down to us, bear marks of belonging to the Oriental family of liturgies. (Dawson W. The Keltic Church and English Christianity. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 1884, p. 377)

Later reports, like from Augustine of Hippo and the "venerable Bede" complained that many in the British Isles kept Passover on the 14th, did not observe Easter Sunday, and held to at least some Church of God doctrines.

Seven Churches of Asia Minor

There were churches through Asia Minor in the Ephesus era. And Jesus inspired to Apostle John to write to, as well as about, seven of them in the last book of the Bible: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicean (Revelation 1,2,3). This has perplexed certain Roman Catholic scholars as they seem to prefer to believe that Rome was more important to the leadership of the Christian church than it actually was.

Notice one attempt of an “explanation” by the late Roman Catholic priest H. B. Kramer:

The seven cities named were situated in the west and center of proconsular Asia…And why not send copies to the most important churches of all, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome? Surely those cities needed to be warned as much as proconsular Asia. The Apocalypse itself being inspired and written at the command of Christ states positively that the Lord chose those churches and dictated each letter…

The following explanation is therefore ventured, because our Lord would more probably select the churches most suitable to receive his message for supernatural than for natural reasons. These seven churches and bishops may have been guilty to such a marked degree of the defects, faults and vices stated in the letters, that they would most likely admit their wrong doing if their attention was called to them. Such faults would court spiritual disaster in any persecution. (Kramer, Herman Bernard.  The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, D.D., Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 1975, pp. 52-53)

Priest Kramer was biblically wrong on several of his points. First, as nearly all scholars seem to recognize, most Christians had left Jerusalem decades before Revelation was written, so it was not then quite as important a location for many early Christians.

Second, other than Paul being imprisoned there, there is no evidence that Rome had become important to Christians in any major way in the late 1st century.

Third, it is difficult to determine how important Antioch of Syria, a city without any late apostles (though it undoubtedly had some faithful Christians), was during the latter portion of the 1st century as a location for Christians as opposed to Asia Minor. Asia Minor is the area where the Apostles John and Philip were in the latter portion of the 1st century.

But fourth (and perhaps biblically most important), two of the seven churches of Revelation (Smyrna and Philadelphia) received no condemnation in the letters. Suggesting that the seven churches were chosen because they were guilty of “defects, faults and vices” that were in the letters to them is simply wrong. And of course, perhaps Priest Kramer and others should simply accept the fact that Christ Himself chose those cities. And there simply is no biblical support that Christ Himself ever chose Rome for leadership purposes.

Thus, from the point of view of the New Testament, it appears that Asia Minor, not Rome, was a major focus of the Christian community in the late 1st century. 

The apostles, or their disciples, did go to many lands, and there are indications that at least some version of Christianity touched much of the Eastern Hemisphere. However, Asia Minor seems to have been the focus for many of the original apostles.

Unlike Rome, Ephesus was a church commended by Christ in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:1-6) and Ephesus was the second largest city in Asia Minor. The biblical references to the famed city of seven hills (Rome) that Jesus had John pen in the Book of Revelation (i.e. 17:9) are negative. (More on the seven church eras can be found in the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3; see also the pdf booklet Continuing History of the Church of God.)

Compromise and Apostasy Occurred as Some Were Not Faithful

The New Testament records that there were problems with various heretics, with some appearing to be real Church of God leaders (cf. 1 John 2:18-19; 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, 3 John 9-10; Acts 8:18-23). But problems did not end with the death of the original apostles, but continued with the rise of the Gnostics, allegorists, and others who denied the truth of the Bible.

Yet, the standards of the Bible was always the way to determine the true followers of Jesus from the false ones:

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)

17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:17)

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Problems popped up all over and even in Jerusalem as some did not hold the truths of scripture in as high of regard as they should have, and some apparently did not have the scriptures who professed Christianity. The historian Eusebius also recorded that Hegesippus claimed that there was one who introduced corruption into the Church of God in Jerusalem, named Thebuthis. Basically Thebuthis was considered to be the father of various heresies, including even Marcionism, which was a form of lawlessness:

1. Hegesippus in the five books of Memoirs which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. ...

4. The same author also describes the beginnings of the heresies which arose in his time, in the following words: And after James the Just had suffered martyrdom, as the Lord had also on the same account, Symeon, the son of the Lord's uncle, Clopas, was appointed the next bishop. All proposed him as second bishop because he was a cousin of the Lord. Therefore, they called the Church a virgin, for it was not yet corrupted by vain discourses. 5. But Thebuthis, because he was not made bishop, began to corrupt it. He also was sprung from the seven sects among the people, like Simon, from whom came the Simonians, and Cleobius, from whom came the Cleobians, and Dositheus, from whom came the Dositheans, and Gorthæus, from whom came the Goratheni, and Masbotheus, from whom came the Masbothæans. From them sprang the Menandrianists, and Marcionists, and Carpocratians, and Valentinians, and Basilidians, and Saturnilians. Each introduced privately and separately his own peculiar opinion. From them came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupt doctrines uttered against God and against his Christ. (Eusebius. Church History, Book IV, Chapter 22, verses 1, 4-5).

In time, that corruption affected many in Jerusalem. What were some doctrines of Simon Magus? Well his followers had statues, the pagan doctrine of the immortal soul, incantations, mysteries, mystic priests, divine titles for leaders, the practice of accepting money for religious favors, a preference for allegory and tradition over many aspects of scripture, a leader who wanted to be thought of as God/Christ on earth, the view they should divorce themselves from Christian biblical practices considered to be Jewish, and also revered a women. And it appears that these doctrines of Simon Magus affected many areas (more on Simon Magus can be found in the article Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?).

There is an old Arabic Islamic manuscript that reports about those considered to be Judeao-Christians. It was published in English in 1966 by Shlomo Pines as The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. It was originally written by an Arabic Muslim around the tenth century named Abd al-Jabbar and called Tathbit Dala'il Nubuwwat Sayyidina Mahammad. One chapter of it is believed to be an Islamic interpretation of a lot of "Judeo-Christian" writings (some probably from true Nazarenes, others from Essenes, etc.).

Shlomo Pines translated much of the one chapter of it into English, that discussed Arabic Judeao-Christians (see Arabic Nazarenes May Have Kept Original Christian Practices) who seemed to have practices like other Nazarene Christians (Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).

Here is the translation of one section of it:

(71a) 'After him', his disciples (axhab) were with the Jews and the Children of Israel in the latter's synagogues and observed the prayers and the feasts of (the Jews) in the same place as the latter. (However) there was a disagreement between them and the Jews with regard to Christ.

The Romans (al-Rum) reigned over them. The Christians (used to) complain to the Romans about the Jews, showed them their own weakness and appealed to their pity. And the Romans did pity them. This (used) to happen frequendy. And the Romans said to the Christians: "Between us and the Jews there is a pact which (obliges us) not to change their religious laws (adyan). But if you would abandon their laws and separate yourselves from them, praying as we do (while facing) the East, eating (the things) we eat, and regarding as permissible that which we consider as such, we should help you and make you powerful, and the Jews would find no way (to harm you). On the contrary, you would be more powerful than they."

The Christians answered:"We will do this."

(And the Romans) said: "Go, fetch your companions, and bring your Book (kitab)." (The Christians) went to their companions, informed them of (what had taken place) between them and the Romans and said to them: "Bring the Gospel (al-injil), and stand up so that we should go to them."

But these (companions) said to them: "You have done ill. We are not permitted (to let) the Romans pollute the Gospel. In giving a favourable answer to the Romans, you have accordingly departed from the religion. We are (therefore) no longer permitted to associate with you; on the contrary, we are obliged to declare that there is nothing in common between us and you;" and they prevented their (taking possession of) the Gospel or gaining access to it. In consequence a violent quarrel (broke out) between (the two groups). Those (mentioned in the first place) went back to the Romans and said to them: "Help us against these companions of ours before (helping us) against the Jews, and take away from them on our behalf our Book (kitab)." Thereupon (the companions of whom they had spoken) fled the country. And the Romans wrote concerning them to their governors in the districts of Mosul and in the Jazirat al-'Arab. Accordingly, a search was made for them; some (qawm) were caught and burned, others (qawm) were killed.

(As for) those who had given a favorable answer to the Romans they came together and took counsel as to how to replace the Gospel, seeing it was lost to them. (Thus) the opinion that a Gospel should be composed (yunshi`u) was established among them…a certain number of Gospels were written. (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, pp. 14-15).

The above, which appears to be accurate, would seem to have taken place in the second century--probably around 134/135 A.D.. It is interesting for a number of reasons. It shows that there were two group that professed Christ then. One called "Christians" above, and the other (the faithful ones) called "companions." The fact that the companions would no longer associate with the compromisers showed that in whatever area the above occurred in, there were definitely two groups.

One had the true gospels, but another made their own up--this may be why the 'gnostic gospels' started to appear in the early second century (see also The New Testament Canon - From the Bible and History).

It is possible that the historian E. Gibbon related the ultimate result of this compromise (bolding mine):

The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. It was natural that the primitive tradition of a church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his apostle, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy. The distant churches very frequently appealed to the authority of their venerable Parent, and relieved her distresses by a liberal contribution of alms...

The Nazarenes retired from the ruins of Jerusalem to the little town of Pella beyond the Jordan, where that ancient church languished above sixty years in solitude and obscurity. They still enjoyed the comfort of making frequent and devout visits to the Holy City, and the hope of being one day restored to those seats which both nature and religion taught them to love as well as to revere. But at length, under the reign of Hadrian, the desperate fanaticism of the Jews filled up the measure of their calamities; and the Romans, exasperated by their repeated rebellions, exercised the rights of victory with unusual rigour. The emperor founded, under the name of Alia Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion, to which he gave the privileges of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages.

They elected Marcus for their bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above a century. By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices they purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian...

When the name and honours of the church of Jerusalem had been restored to Mount Sion, the crimes of heresy and schism were imputed to the obscure remnant of the Nazarenes which refused to accompany their Latin bishop. They still preserved their former habitation of Pella, spread themselves into the villages adjacent to Damascus, and formed an inconsiderable church in the city of Bercea, or, as it is now called, of Aleppo, in Syria. The name of Nazarenes was deemed too honourable for those Christian Jews, and they soon received, from the supposed poverty of their understanding, as well as of their condition, the contemptuous epithet of Ebionites...The unfortunate Ebionites, rejected from one religion as apostates, and from the other as heretics, found themselves compelled to assume a more decided character; and although some traces of that obsolete sect may be discovered as late as the fourth century, they insensibly melted away either into the church or the synagogue...

It has been remarked with more ingenuity than truth that the virgin purity of the church was never violated by schism or heresy before the reign of Trajan or Hadrian, about one hundred years after the death of Christ (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788).

It should be noted that, because of this revolt, Emperor Hadrian outlawed many practices considered to be Jewish. The Christians in Judea had a decision to make. They either could continue to keep the Sabbath and the rest of God's law and flee or they could compromise and support a religious leader who would not keep the Sabbath, etc. (More on Marcus can be found in the article Marcus of Jerusalem: Apostolic successor or apostate?)

Sadly as E. Gibbons and Sholomo Pines reported, most, but not all, made the wrong choice. Jesus, of course, taught that the true church would be a "little flock" (Luke 12:32). This clearly led to a separation between the Christian faithful and those who preferred a form of Christianity more acceptable to the Roman world. (For more on the Nazarenes, please see the article Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?)

Was the church supposed to change its beliefs and practices throughout history or be faithful to what the apostles originally received?

Some in Jerusalem realized that they were not to change in order to save their lives. Perhaps they recalled the teaching of Jesus when He said:

23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another (Matthew 10:23).

Since the faithful portion of the true Church of God did this in 69/70 A.D., is it not logical that the those in the true Church of God would also do this in 135 A.D.?

And what does the Bible teach they were to be faithful to other than the original faith? Notice that like the Apostle John who warned against changing true doctrine, Jude told Christians to:

3...contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints. (Jude 3)

Those who accepted Marcus' changes obviously did not heed Jude's admonition. But those who did not listened to both Jude and Jesus. Instead they accepted the a teaching associated with Gnosticism: that is that the law of God is not relevant to Christians and that scriptures should be interpretted as allergorical. Notice that this is confirmed by the historian E. Gibbon:

...the law of Moses...

From its supposed imperfections, the Gnostics as hastily inferred that it never was instituted by the wisdom of the Deity...

The most learned of the fathers, by a very singular condescension, have imprudently admitted the sophistry of the Gnostics. Acknowledging that the literal sense is repugnant to every principle of faith as well as reason, they deem themselves secure and invulnerable behind the ample veil of allegory, which they carefully spread over every tender part of the Mosaic dispensation (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788).

In other words, many of the so-called "fathers" adopted Gnostic concepts such as allegorizing scripture. And this led to them discounting parts of God's law. And this is essentially what happened to the larger mainstream churches that profess Christianity.

Early Christians In Asia Minor and Elsewhere Were Not Unitarian

After the Apostle John died, Christians tended to mainly be led by leaders/bishops that originally had been ordained by the original apostles (as well as those ordained by those who had been ordained by the apostles).

Ignatius of Antioch knew the apostles, and around 108-120 A.D. specifically acknowledged that the Church in Ephesus had been predestined for greatness by God, as he wrote,

... to the church at Ephesus in Asia, blessed with greatness through the fullness of God the Father, predestinated before the ages for lasting and unchangeable glory forever (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians. Verse 0. In Holmes MW, ed. As translated in The Apostolic Fathers Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 3rd printing 2004 pp. 136-137).

The early church had what are now called "primitive Christian" or "Church of God" doctrines.

Contrary to claims by traditional unitarians and some inaccurate modern "scholars," the Church of God during this time did worship Jesus as God. It was clearly understood that the Father was God and the Son was God. Ignatius also knew this as he wrote the following passage to the Ephesians:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto her which hath been blessed in greatness through the plentitude of God the Father; which hath been foreordained before the ages to be for ever unto abiding and unchangeable glory, united and elect in a true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God; even unto the church which is in Ephesus [of Asia], worthy of all felicitation: abundant greeting in Christ Jesus and in blameless joy (Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians, Verse 0. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

He also stated something similar in another letter at about the same time:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ the Beloved, which hath been mercifully endowed with every grace, being filled with faith and love and lacking in no grace, most reverend and bearing holy treasures; to the church which is in Smyrna of Asia, in a blameless spirit and in the word of God abundant greeting. I give glory to Jesus Christ the God who bestowed such wisdom upon you" (Ignatius' Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Verses 0-1.1. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

It is important to note that Ignatius referred to both the Father and the Son as God in both places (and I verified that it is in the original Greek), but he never called the Holy Spirit 'God.'

In "the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived" (Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 102)--outside those in the Bible--sometimes erroneously referred to as Second Letter of Clement, it also seems to support binitarianism. This sermon was given perhaps within a year or so of John's death, begins with the following:

Brothers, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ, as of God, as "Judge of the living and the dead" (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 1:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 107)

So then, brothers, if we do the will of God our Father...(An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

Now the church, being spiritual was revealed in the flesh of Christ, thereby showing us that if any of us guard her in the flesh and do not corrupt her, he will receive her back again in the Holy Spirit. For this flesh is a copy of the Spirit. No one, therefore, who corrupts the copy, will share in the original. This, therefore, is what he means, brothers: guard the flesh, in order that you may receive of the Spirit. Now if we say that the flesh is the church and the Spirit is Christ, then the one who abuses the flesh hath abuses the church. Consequently such a person will not receive the Spirit, which is Christ. So great is the life and immortality which this flesh is able to receive, if the Holy Spirit is closely joined with it, that no one is able to proclaim or to tell "what things the Lord hath prepared" for his chosen ones (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:3-5. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

Thus the oldest preserved sermon says to think of Jesus as God and that the Father is God, but it never indicates that the Holy Spirit is God. This is consistent with the binitarian view (perhaps it should be noted that until sometime into the fourth century, history demonstrates that the majority of those who professed Christ had a "Semi-Arian" or binitarian view of the Godhead).

As mentioned previously, those who fled Jerusalem to Pella were called Nazarenes. Notice their view of the Godhead according to a modern scholar, named Larry Hurtado:

..."Nazarene" Christianity, had a view of Jesus fully compatible with the beliefs favored by the proto-orthodox (indeed, they could be considered part of the circles that made up proto-orthodox Christianity of the time). Pritz contended that this Nazarene Christianity was the dominant form of Christianity in the first and second centuries...the devotional stance toward Jesus that characterized most of the Jewish Christians of the first and second centuries seems to have been congruent with proto-orthodox devotion to Jesus...the proto-orthodox "binitarian" pattern of devotion. (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 560-561,618).

For more information on how the early Church viewed the Godhead, please see the article Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning.

Perhaps it should be pointed out that during the Ephesus era, in addition to having Latin "Christianity" develop, a unitarian "Christianity" also developed, though it seems to have been condemned by the Apostle Paul. It should be noted that in early Jerusalem, there were apparently two groups professing Christ.  One not truly faithful, that the Apostle Paul referred to as “the circumcision” (Titus 1:10) (often known as early Ebionites), while the other group was composed of true and faithful Jewish Christians (also called Nazarenes).

Scholar Ray Pritz noted:

The Nazarenes were distinct from the Ebionites and prior to them. In fact, we have found that it is possible that there was a split in Nazarene ranks around the turn of the first century. This split was either over a matter of christological doctrine or over leadership of the community. Out of this split came the Ebionites, who can scarcely be separated from the Nazarenes on the basis of geography, but who can be easily distinguished from the standpoint of Christology (Pritz,R.  Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, p. 108).

Unlike the 'Nazarene' Christians who accepted the deity of Christ, the early ones called Ebionites denied it.

However, this got confused over time by certain writings.

Origen noted that there were two groups that he considered to be “Ebionites,” one who believed in the virgin birth (and that would be those who this paper suggests were also known as the Nazarenes) and those who did not:

Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some who accept Jesus, and who boast on that account of being Christians, and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude, in accordance with the Jewish law,—and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites, who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this, and maintain that He was begotten like other human beings…(Origen.  Contra Celsus, Book V, Chapter 61).

So Origen apparently combined both groups together under the name Ebionites.  This has caused some confusion among scholars of all persuasions, but it is clear that there were faithful true Christians who held to Jewish practices in the first and early second centuries in Jerusalem, while there were others that the Bible seems to warn about (Titus 1:10). But unlike those Ebionites that denied the deity of Christ, the true Nazarenes did teach that Jesus was God.

Around the same time of Ignatius, lived a Christian leader in Asia Minor known as Papias of Hierapolis. It should be noted that Papias, was a hearer of John (and a friend of Polycarp). And he held millennial views that many associated with modern Christianity do not hold.

In the late first century, the Apostle John taught about the millennial reign:

4 Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6).

In the early second century, Papias also taught about the millennial reign. One early source taught this about Papias:

It may also be worth while to add to the statements of Papias already given...Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth (Fragments of Papias, VI).

Papias taught that it would be a time of great abundance:

In like manner, [He said] that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear would have ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and that apples, and seeds, and grass would produce in similar proportions; and that all animals, feeding then only on the productions of the earth, would become peaceable and harmonious, and be in perfect subjection to man." [Testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John and a friend of Polycarp, in the fourth of his books; for five books were composed by him...] (Fragments of Papias, IV).

This belief in Millenarianism was universal within the true church, but now most affiliated with Christianity do not believe in it--and some (including recent pontiff, Benedict XVI) have condemned that view as heretical (actually, it is the only doctrine that the current Catechism of the Catholic Church associates with Antichrist, and that is included in the article Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?).

Listing of Doctrines Held By Early Christians

Since the Ephesus portion of the early church was the apostolic and early post-apostolic period, the faithful ones during that time obviously believed the teachings of the apostles and writings in the New Testament.

Here are summaries some of the doctrines held during the time of the Ephesus Church:

Baptism was by immersion and only for adults.
The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor.
A Binitarian view was obviously held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.
Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.
Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.
Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings.
Church governance was properly hierarchical.
Church services were not like ritualistic like modern "mass" that many attend.
Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental.
Easter was not observed by the apostolic church.
The Fall Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.
The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians.
Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians.
Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.
Idols were taught against, including the use of the cross.
Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.
Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.
The Kingdom of God was preached.
Lent was not observed.
Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth) was taught by the early Christians.
Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.
Passover was kept on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second Century Christians in Asia Minor.
Pentecost was kept on Sunday by certain Jews and was observed then by professing Christians.
The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians
The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.
Salvation was believed to be offered to the chosen now by the early Church, with others being called later, though not all that taught that (or other doctrines) practiced "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians.
The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians. And they were numbered the way that thegenuine Church of God and the Eastern Orthodox Church still number them) which differs from the numbering used by the Roman Catholic Church or the Lutheran Church).
Tithes and Offerings were given to support the ministry, the churches, the needy, and evangelical travels and proclamation.
Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians but was never supposed to supercede the Bible.
The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians.
Unclean Meats were eaten by the early allegorists, but not by true Christians.
The Virgin Birth was acknowledged by all true ante-Nicene Christians.

The above were beliefs of the original Christian church. We in the Continuing Church of God hold to all of these views today.

Back on on December 17, 1983, Herbert W. Armstrong gave a sermon that was titled Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era. Notice how it began:

"Greetings, everybody! This afternoon I want to speak on the mission of the Philadelphia Era of the Church, this Church today in comparison to the first era of the Church, the Ephesus Era of the Church.

And his basic conclusion was that the Philadelphia Era of the Church held to the original beliefs that the original Ephesus era of the Church of God held to (see also 18 Truths Restored to the Churches of God).

There Were Two Groups in Ephesus

Just like there was a separation between those who wanted to keep God's law in Jerusalem in 135 A.D. and those who did not, there were separations in some other parts of Christendom (see articles on Simon Magus and Marcion), as well as in Ephesus (such as Cerinthus).

Paul told those in Ephesus, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk…” (Ephesians 4:17). Yet certain ones did not heed this.

About 135 A.D., in Ephesus, Justin Martyr wrote, in response to a Jew named Trypho:

...some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. (Justin.  Dialogue with Trypho. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus, Justin admits that there were two groups in Ephesus, one that kept all the law and the other that did not. He also admits that he did not associate closely with those who kept the law.

He also records this accusation from a Jew named Trypho:

But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or Sabbaths…you do not obey His commandments (Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 10. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc.).

While the Ephesians were told to live differently than the other Gentiles in whose nation they co-existed with, those with Justin could not be distinguished. Thus, Ephesus (who Christ later commends) and not Rome (who embraced Justin as a saint) would seem to have been the place where the early teachings of the true Church were being preserved.

Although Justin ended up in Rome, this discourse between Trypho and Justin took place in Ephesus. This shows that there were two very different professing Christian groups in Ephesus as Justin specifically claimed his group did not observe the Sabbath, keep the Feasts, or eat unleavened bread—yet Polycrates of Ephesus later confirmed that Passover was continually kept on the 14th and unleavened bread was still eaten annually by the Christians who were the followers of Polycarp and John in Ephesus. It is possible that the reason that Justin decided to leave Ephesus and return to Rome was because the true Christians in Ephesus would not accept him or his teachings.

When responding to Trypho about the ten commandments, Justin also stated:

For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally…an eternal and final law--namely, Christ--has been given to us, and the covenant is trustworthy, after which there shall be no law, no commandment, no ordinance (Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 11).

But look at what John, the last apostle in Ephesus wrote:

4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4).

Therefore, John knew that there were false teachers within the time of Ephesus.

In the first century, a heretic named Cerinthus arose and taught allegorizing of scripture, that non-biblical tradition was more important than scripture, blended Gnostic teachings with the Bible, falsely claimed to be an apostle, added improper festivals, and claimed that angels gave him messages. Irenaeus taught that John was very seriously opposed to the heretic Cerinthus:

There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4)

John, thus, really opposed Cerinthus and those who had teachings like him.

Interestingly, recall that Jesus commends the Church at Ephesus because, "you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2)--in other words, the Church at Ephesus had the ability to know who the true leaders of the Christian church actually were. Nothing in the Bible says this about the Roman Church.

Perhaps it should be noted that although the Roman Church considers Justin to be a saint, it teaches that Justin may have been less than truthful. The Catholic Encyclopedia states this about Justin:

In both "Apologies" and in his "Dialogue" he gives many personal details, e.g. about his studies in philosophy and his conversion; they are not, however, an autobiography, but are partly idealized, and it is necessary to distinguish in them between poetry and truth…He received a good education in philosophy, an account of which he gives us at the beginning of his "Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon"…This account cannot be taken too literally; the facts seem to be arranged with a view…This interview is evidently not described exactly as it took place, and yet the account cannot be wholly fictitious (Lebreton J. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

Not wholly fictitious suggests that the Catholic scholars realize Justin was partially bearing false witness, thus not likely to be part of the true Church. Justin actually made a variety of clearly false statements in his writings that others have noted (here is a detailed article Justin Martyr: Saint, Heretic, or Apostate?).

Justin advocated lawlessness. Thus there were, by the end of the predominance of Ephesus, those in the true church, and those that accepted apostasy. Even Paul noted that when he was still alive:

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

The Apostle John noted this about the false Christians during the time of Ephesus:

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us (1 John 2:19).

Sadly, by the end of the Ephesus era, this was true of many who professed Christ in both Jerusalem and Ephesus--most left the faith. It should be understood that history records that those accepted by most as true early Christian leaders, other than Justin (who those in the Churches of God do not accept as a true Christian leader), did advocate keeping the ten commandments (this is documented in the article The Ten Commandments and the Early Church).

Ancient Ephesus and the 'End' of the City of Ephesus

As far as anicient Ephesus goes, notice the following:


   The word Ephesus means "desirable." It is also said to carry the meaning of "having relaxed" or "let go." It was considered the most desirable city of the province and of Asia Minor.

   It was located at the mouth of the Cayster River on the slopes of the hills overlooking the Aegean Sea. Its beautiful location, together with the fertile soil and excellent climate, made it a very desirable place to live. During its earlier history Ephesus had one of the finest harbors of the world, which was protected by high hills and a narrow channel easily guarded from enemy ships. The ships of all nations visited this harbor, and Ephesus became one of the chief commercial centers of the west coast of Asia. By imperial edict it was made the gateway to the province of Asia for Roman officials.

   Stamped on coins found in the ruins of Ephesus are the titles, "First of all the greatest," and "The first and greatest metropolis of Asia."

   The city was known as "the Light of Asia" and "the first City of Asia." Ephesus was the meeting place of several important Roman highways. One of these was the great trade route from the valley of the Euphrates which ran through Colosse and Laodicea. Another came from the province of Galatia through Sardis. And the third was the great coastal highway running northward through Smyrna and Pergamos and southward through the Maeander valley. Since the emperor of Rome visited the provinces through his representative, the proconsul, "Ephesus was the spot where the Majesty of Rome first set foot on the soil of the Province." (McKnight)

Archaeological Discoveries

   From the harbor to the city was a very wide and beautiful boulevard entering the city under a triumphal arch, and lined with monumental buildings. The city was adorned with magnificent temples built by Nero, Hadrian, and Severus, besides the famous temple of Diana (Latin), or Artemis (Greek). The city was consecrated in the minds of the people by many myths and leg-ends of gods and goddesses, making it one of the sacred cities of the pagan world. The Temple of Diana alone made the city famous. This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The earliest temple was a century in building, and was completed in 480 B.C.

   Through an inscription found in the ruins of the city it was learned that the temple (of Diana) was not located in the city itself, where all others had been searching for it. The searchers discovered a magnificent gate, through which ran a street thirty-five feet wide paved with stones of fine marble. The temple was built of white, red, blue, and yellow marble of the finest quality. At least part of this material had doubtless been brought to Ephesus from Patmos, where large marble quarries were located. Instead of mortar, gold was reputed to have been used between the joints of marble blocks.

   Hundreds and perhaps thousands of priests were connected with the temple ritual. There were also multitudes of priestesses dedicated to prostitution in the service of the temple.

   Diana was reckoned as the daughter of Jupiter and the twin sister of Apollo. She was known as the moon goddess, and was doubtless one of the many manifestations of Semiramis, the "Mother of the gods." Inscriptions call her the "Savior goddess" and the "Mother of God." She is represented as a many breasted goddess seated with an infant in her arms. In A. D. 431 a great council of the Christian church was held at Ephesus, at which time the phrase "Mother of God" was applied to Mary.

   Traffic in shrines was one of the principal industries of Ephesus. The sale of these idols, or shrines, to pilgrim worshipers from all parts of the world resulted in an enormous profit. Not only were they worshiped as gods but they were supposed to charm away evil spirits and protect the devotee from danger of all kinds. An inscription has been found with the name of "Demetrius son of Menophilus," which indicates that he was president of the board of magistrates, or city fathers. This probably accounts for his great influence and authority and explains his ability to stir up the whole city against Paul. ...

City of Change

   The message to the church of Ephesus and the subsequent history of the city indicate that the "desirable city" would become the city of change and decay, the declining city. After the destruction of the temple in the third century and the filling up of the harbor with sediment from the Cayster River, Ephesus rapidly declined. Efforts to hold the water back and deepen the harbor were made by making narrower the channel between the harbor and the sea, but this only seemed to hasten the infilling. All dredging operations proved unavailing. (Bunch, Taylor G. The Seven Epistles of Christ. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1947 as cited in The Seven Cities of Asia Minor, Ambassador College Study Guide, pre-1987, pp. 2-3)

God sometimes seems to fulfill prophecies in ways we humans cannot tell until after the fact.

In the case of Ephesus where John wrote, "repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place", what happened was astounding.

Not only did Ephesus cease to be an important city, it ceased to be a port! The silt from a local river pouring out over time has actually removed Ephesus a distance of 4-6 miles (according to our Turkish tour guide Fahmi) from the ocean. As my wife and I personally verified, the view from the ancient harbor of Ephesus to the actual ocean is a long one.

View from Ephesus
View from Ephesus of what was the Aegean Sea

Currently, Ephesus itself is now just a bunch of partially excavated ancient ruins with two large parking lots, some souvenir stands, and apparently one camel for tourists to take pictures of. It no longer has any prominence, other than biblical and historical.

Photos of ancient Ephesus can be found accessed from the article Joyce's Photo's of Ephesus.


The Churches in Revelation 2 & 3 show a prophetic succession of the New Testament Church. And those who accept that understand that Ephesus was not to remain as the predominant church. Ephesus probably ceased being predominant about 135 A.D.—this is about same time of the second destruction of Jerusalem.

In God’s plan, it is apparent that the Church in Ephesus was not to remain the dominant era of the church. It seems to have ceased being so by about 135 A.D., the time by which nearly all of the leaders (except Polycarp, who was a direct successor of the Apostle John) ordained by the original apostles were dead.

135 is the same time of the second major takeover of Jerusalem since Jesus' ascension into heaven in Acts 1. This was the end of a line of faithful bishops in Jerusalem, as the so-called Jewish were not let in starting in 135.

So by 135, there were no living apostles in Ephesus (John died c. 100) nor faithful bishops remaining in Jerusalem.

Thus, 135 was probably about when Polycarp of Smyrna began to be recognized as the top faithful human leader of the church by Christians throughout Asia Minor and likely other parts of the Roman Empire. Circa 135 is possibly when Polycarp sent out his letter to the Philippians.

Therefore, around 135 the Ephesus era ended and the Smyrna era began (though there was some likely overlapping).

Paul commended those of Thessalonica because they "became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus." The records of history as well as non-Church of God historians admit that the early church had practices that many now consider to be Jewish. History also records that because of persecution from Roman emperors such as Hadrian, changes occurred and many abandoned "the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints."

Do you believe that you should keep the faith and practices of the original and true Church?

Or do you prefer traditions of men to the teachings of the Bible?

Seven times Jesus said so. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7,11,17,29;3:6,13,22).

Will you?

A related sermon is also available: Ephesus Church Era.

In the Book of Revelation, the Church of Ephesus was followed by the Church in Smyrna.

Photos of ancient Ephesus can be found accessed from the article Joyce's Photo's of Ephesus.

Next church is Smyrna

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B. Thiel, Ph.D. The Ephesus Church Era (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2012/2014/2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020 1106

The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 from 31 A.D. to present
The Ephesus Church Era predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D.
The Smyrna Church Era predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D.
The Pergamos Church Era predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D.
The Thyatira Church Era predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D.
The Sardis Church Era predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D.
The Philadelphia Church Era predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D.
The Laodicean Church Era predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from c. 31 A.D. to the 21st century.