Antioch (in Syria)
Antioch in Syria was considered the third most important city in the Roman Empire behind Rome and Alexandria. Correspondingly, it was one of the major focal points for the early spread of Christianity after the initial birth of the New Testament church in Jerusalem. The city is also one of the few places the Apostle Paul stayed in for more than a few weeks or months. During his thirty-five year ministry (33 to 68 A.D.), he resides in Syrian Antioch a total of about five years.
God's word states that the number of believers grows so rapidly in Antioch that Barnabas is sent to the city in order to check on the status of the new believers. Right after his visit he travels through Syria to Tarsus to enlist the help of Paul and the two stay in the city for a year teaching the new converts (Acts 11:20 - 26). It is in Antioch that believers in Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah are called Christians (verse 26).
According to Holman's Bible Dictionary, second century A.D. Talmudic sources refer to Capernaum as the home of Jewish heretics (Minim) who are generally believed to have been Jewish Christians. The city, recorded only in the Gospel accounts, is located on the far northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. In New Testament times, it was one of Galilee's economic centers.
Jesus, near the beginning of his public ministry, left Nazareth and made Capernaum his primary residence (Matthew 4:13 - 17). The city and its surrounding area also witnessed many of Christ's mighty miracles. No less than five of the original twelve apostles (James, John, Andrew, Peter and Matthew) had a home in the city.
Damascus, the capital of modern Syria that is located roughly 130 miles (209 kilometers) from Jerusalem, is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. Evidence of a significant population living in the area dates to at least the second millennium B.C. In the KJV Bible, the city is directly named at least sixty times. The city's first Biblical mention is in the book of Genesis, where it is connected with Abraham's military victory over a confederation of kings led by Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:15).
Before his conversion a man named Saul, who would be renamed Paul, traveled to Damascus to haul off to jail all those in the synagogues who believed Jesus was the Savior (Acts 9:2). It was a disciple named Ananias, who lived in the city, whom God led to heal Saul of his blindness and baptize him (verses 10 - 18). After he became a Christian, it was only natural that Saul (Paul) would make the city his first evangelistic effort. His teachings and the ability to prove that Jesus was the Messiah was so powerful, however, that Jews in Damascus sought to murder him (Acts 9:20 - 25)!
It was King David who attacked the city of Jebus, conquered it, renamed it Jerusalem, and made it his capital (1Chronicles 11:4 - 7). From this time forward Jerusalem would also be known as the city of David.
Scripture records and hints at SEVERAL groups of believers or churches met in Jerusalem, in private homes, to worship God and encourage one another in the faith. After the day of Pentecost groups of believers met in homes to eat and thank the Eternal for all He had done (Acts 2:46 - 47). Even though the apostles were arrested in the city by religious leaders, beaten, and told not to preach Christ, they still spread the gospel in every house they visited (Acts 5:40 - 42).
Saul, before he became apostle Paul, persecuted believers in Jerusalem by entering houses Christians used as gathering places and dragging them off to prison (Acts 8:3). Peter, after he was miraculously freed from Herod's prison, went directly to the home of John Mark's mother where believers were gathered to pray for him (Acts 12:12).
Called Lod in the Old Testament (1Chronicles 8:12), Lydda is mentioned only a few times in Scripture. It is the place where Peter, while visiting believers living in the area, healed a bed-ridden handicapped man named Aeneas (Acts 9:32 - 34). It was after this miraculous event that many more in the city and the surrounding plain of Saron became Christians (verse 35).
It was in Lydda that Peter was asked, by two Christians who came from Joppa, to visit the city and the home of Dorcas (Acts 9:36 - 38). The result of his visit was the miraculous raising from the dead of this generous lady.
Pella is located east of the Jordan River in a region called the Decapolis ("the ten cities" - see Matthew 4:25, Mark 5:20, 7:31). Although there is no direct reference to this city in the Bible, it is linked to Jesus' statement regarding the fleeing of his church into Judea when Jerusalem is attacked.
21. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those within her go out, and let not those in the countries come into her (Luke 21:21, see also Matthew 24:16 and Mark 13:14).
When the Jews began, in 66 A.D., to revolt against Roman rule, thousands of Christians fled Jerusalem to Pella. The early church historian Eusebius (c. 260 to 340) wrote the following about believers taking refuge in the city.
"The whole body of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella."