During the First Century AD, Ephesus had a population of 250,000 and was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, behind Rome and Alexandria (Egypt). It was a prosperous city and the primary sea port in the area, located in perhaps the wealthiest region of the Roman Empire. Most probably, Ephesus became the home city for both the Apostle John and John, the Elder (the beloved disciple). It should be noted that the Apostle Paul and Timothy also taught in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). Further, Mark also spent time in Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:11).
German Scholar Martin Hengel noted that around AD 125 to 135, Papias of Hieropolis wrote of two Johns who had taught in Asia Minor. One was associated with the Twelve, but the other was John, the Elder. As stated in an earlier blogpost, in my opinion, John, the Elder (not the Apostle John) was the likely author of the Gospel of John, along with the letters: First, Second, and Third John, and the Book of Revelation.
Arguably, Ephesus also became the home of Mary, the mother of Jesus, after she fled Jerusalem. Perhaps, the reader recalls that Jesus (at the time of His death) assigned John (the beloved disciple) the task of looking after His mother (John 19:25-27). The Johannine text explains that Mary became a part of John, the Elder’s household (John 19:25-27). Considering that Jesus had half-siblings (like James and Jude) who were presumably more than capable of providing for His and their earthly mother, this seems somewhat surprising. Perhaps, she had suffered enough, and she needed to be taken to some safe place to live the rest of her life in anonymity. Anonymity is achieved best in a larger city.
As explained in my earlier blogpost, John, the Elder was not one of the Twelve Apostles from Galilee. Most likely, John, the Elder, was a Judean aristocrat and follower of Christ. While the Apostles (other than Peter, initially) fled for their lives at the time of Jesus’s arrest (Mark 14:50; Matt. 26:56), John, the Elder (the beloved disciple) witnessed Jesus’s crucifixion seemingly without fear of arrest (John 19:25-27). John, the Elder was also the one who arranged for Peter to have access to the residence of the High Priest immediately after Jesus’s arrest and during the initial interrogation of Jesus (John 18:16). John, the beloved disciple, personally knew the High Priest (John 18:15-16). Ultimately, most likely, John, the Elder left Palestine and traveled to Ephesus with Mary. Later, John, the Elder became a well-known teacher in Ephesus and Asia Minor. Presumably, Mary continued to live with John, the Elder in Ephesus until her death. John (the beloved disciple) became like an adopted son to Mary.
Paul was given credit for the evangelization of Ephesus. At the end of his Second Missionary Journey, Paul arrived in Ephesus around AD 52. On his first visit to Ephesus, Paul had taught briefly in the synagogue and then left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus, while he returned east to Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). It should be noted that during this trip, the Ephesians were very positive toward Paul and asked him to stay longer (Acts 18:20).
On his Third Missionary Journey, Paul returned to Ephesus. However, before Paul returned to Ephesus, it should be noted that the famous Christian teacher Apollos also spent time teaching in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-28). The disciple Luke wrote that Apollos was highly proficient in the Scriptures and powerfully demonstrated and taught that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:24,28).
Upon arriving again in Ephesus, Paul taught with success for about three months in the local synagogue, teaching about the Kingdom of God (Acts 19:8-9). Paul emphasized to the Ephesians the importance of the ministry of God, the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-9). However, after about three months, some became hardened and antagonistic to the teaching of Paul (Acts 19:8-9). Then Paul withdrew from the local synagogue and for two years, around AD 52 to 55, Paul dedicated his ministry to teaching daily at the School of Tyrannus, which was located in Ephesus (Acts 19:9). Many in Asia Minor responded to Paul’s Gospel message. The Disciple Luke wrote, “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10), and “the word of the Lord was growing and prevailing mightily” (Act 19:20).
God orchestrated extraordinary miracles through the hands of Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:11). Paul persuaded many in Asia Minor to turn away from idols and the magic arts. He taught that gods made by human hands were not gods at all (Acts 19:26). During this time, magic books worth more than 50,000 pieces of silver were destroyed by repentant Ephesians (Acts 19:18-19). However, Demetrius, a local silversmith and maker of idols, complained that Paul’s ministry had significantly and negatively impacted the demand for household idols (Acts 19:24-29). Demetrius was concerned that the Great Temple of Artemis (a/k/a the goddess Diana, whose temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world) would fall into dishonor, disrepute and be considered worthless (Acts 19:27). Thereafter, Demetrius stirred up a riot against Paul and his companions, causing Paul to flee from Ephesus.
During Paul’s final trip to Jerusalem, Paul bypassed Ephesus (Acts 20:16). Instead, he invited the leadership of the church at Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, another coastal city, 30 miles south of Ephesus (Acts 20:17). During this visit, Paul recounted and recalled his significant three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 20:18-24). He spent more time in Ephesus than anywhere else on his missionary journeys. Paul had taught the Ephesians in larger assemblies like the Hall of Tyrannus, and he had taught the Ephesians from house church to house church (noting that there was more than one assembly) (Acts 20:20).
At the time of their meeting, Paul believed that he was destined for chains and afflictions in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-23). He did not believe that he would see the Ephesians again (Acts 20:25). Paul was determined to finish his course and ministry received from the Lord (Acts 20:24). He declared to them that he had boldly preached to them the Kingdom of God, and Paul confidently asserted that he had not shrunk back from teaching them “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).
The Ephesian leadership and Paul closed their meeting in prayer and tears, believing that they would never see each other again (Acts 20:23-25,38). Nevertheless, it is probable that Paul was ultimately able to visit again with the Ephesians after his initial release from custody in Rome (1 Tim. 1:3). However, Luke’s emphasis (in the Book of Acts) placed on Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian leadership is solid proof of the historical significance of the believers in Ephesus. However, Paul warned them that, after his departure, savage wolves would descend upon the Ephesian flock to mislead, confuse, and distract them (Acts 20:29-30).
With the writing of the Book of Revelation (during the AD 60s), John, the Elder, recounted that Christ encouraged the Ephesians to recalibrate their faith (Rev. 2:1-7). The Ephesians’ past deeds, labor, and perseverance were acknowledged, but they were warned that they had departed from their high level of devotion to their first love (Jesus Christ) (Rev. 2:2-5). They did not tolerate evil people (Rev. 2:2), but they had not remained steadfast in their love and devotion to Christ.
Pleasing Christ must always be our steadfast and highest priority. It is easy for us humans to lose our focus and become distracted by the things of this world. Unless the Ephesians repented, they were going to lose their status as one of the ancient world’s greatest Christian congregations. To be an overcomer believer, we must persevere in our walk of faith over many years. We must continue to listen and place the highest emphasis on what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:1-7). We are challenged to be faithful until death (Rev. 2:10). If we are faithful until death, we will receive the Crown of Life (Rev. 2:10).
 “Ephesians.” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Volume 3. Gen. Editor, Clinton Arnold, et al., Zondervan Academic, 2002, p. 301.
 Hengel, Martin. The Johannine Question. Translated by John Bowden. SCM Press, London / Trinity Press International, Philadelphia,1989, pp. 16-17, 30-31.
 Smith, T. Kenan. “John, the Elder.” Eyes to See The Revelation & The Kingdom of God. 11 Sept. 2021, https://eyestoseetherevelation.com/john-the-elder/
 “Acts.” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Volume 2. Gen. Editor, Clinton Arnold, et al., Zondervan Academic, 2002, pp185-186.
 “Ephesians.” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Volume 3. Gen. Editor, Clinton Arnold, et al., Zondervan Academic, 2002, p. 303.
 Smith, T. Kenan. Eyes to See The Revelation: A Spiritual Journey. Westbow Press, 2019, p. 17.