I have read a few speculative articles about who the Nicolaitans were. None of them have truly satisfied, however. So, I have to ask: Would Jesus inspire John to write something in the Book of Revelation (a book of revealing, not concealing) that would not be clear in the end times? What is the key then?
I looked up the Wikipedia article on it, and they state that it is “ostensibly” referring to the followers of a deacon named Nicolas. According to some early writers, he apparently is equated with Balaam of Peor in engaging in sexual immorality. However, if that is the case, then why not just say “the doctrine of Balaam” who is mentioned just in the previous verse? Why the difference?
I would have to say they are different.
Apparently, JH Allen believed it was the act of ruling over the laity instead of guiding them. He further believed that it was the creation of a rank of priests within the church. Timothy M. Youngblood of The Master’s Table would seem to agree with him. On his Call to Arms page, his sermon titled “Church Government ?” says that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans is “hierarchy”.
With all due respect, I am having difficulty buying any of these arguments.
First, if a deacon named Nicolas existed, there are very few writings about him. Those that do contradict one another.
Second, if the issue really was hierarchy, rank or whatever you want to call it, then why didn’t Jesus just come out and say so?
Having said that, I’m not sure that the second teaching is as far off as first glance would indicate. In fact, I believe it might be the very thing I’ve railed about a few times. Since we are given so little to go on other than the name, it seems that would be the key to understanding.
Breaking it down, “Nicolaitan” means “lording it over the laity” or “victory over the lay people”. Does that necessarily mean a hierarchy? No, I don’t think so. It does mean that you are subjugating or lording it over the lay people. Frankly, we are talking spiritual abuse here, and it is a definite problem within some COGs.
You see, I do not believe hierarchy is necessarily wrong. Otherwise, why didn’t God say anything when Moses set up a hierarchy of judges to teach the people the laws and statutes of God? When David setup his army, he obviously used a standard ranking style of leadership over them. Even in the Temple assignments, he organized them into groups and ranks within the priesthood.
Even in the NT, it is obvious that the Apostles were over the rest. It is obvious in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus that ministers have authority in the church. Therefore, at very least there was a ranking of apostle->minister->lay person.
But – and this is a big one – we are also told that they were not to become dictators.
1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3, King James Version)
Once again, we see it truly distills down to a matter of attitude. This may sound like a broken record, but in the end that is exactly the problem God is fixing – our hearts.
We are told here by Peter to not “lord it over” God’s people. Where did he get that idea, do you think?
42But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
45For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45, King James Version)
Was Jesus saying the church shouldn’t have some type of organization? I doubt that. God is not the author of confusion (1Co 14:33). However, it does say a “minister” should be serving. In fact, that’s what “minister” means!
What was Jesus responding to in that last passage? James and John came to Jesus asking if one could sit on His left hand and the other on His right hand in the Millennium. They were seeking power and authority.
Who else sought power and authority in Jesus’ day? The scribes and Pharisees.
2Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:2-12, King James Version)
Hopefully, you can see why I notice how “down to earth” some ministers are and occasionally make mention of it. Instead of looking for the chief seats and the great titles (such as prophet, apostle, pastor general, one of the two witnesses, Elijah, Elisha, …), there are some who will actually rub elbows with the entire congregation.
Again, we are told that a minister is a servant.
How many COGs are run by egomaniacs wanting power, authority and recognition? Far too many! I’m not convinced that any of them are totally immune, either.
Too many COG leaders want it “my way or the highway”. Drop the pretense. If they were interested in doing it God’s way, then they would be approaching it totally different.
Here is what some of them teach: If you do not believe in “God’s government”, then God is not interested in your well being. If you don’t follow “God’s one man”, then you are the lowest of the low and worse off than an unbeliever. If you do everything Jesus instructed you to do but you belong to the wrong church organization, then God will punish you in the Tribulation. If you belong to the wrong COG, you are treated worse than a child killing Satanist by at least one so-called “Church of God”.
Again, is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans hierarchy, or is that just the usual means to the end? Is organizing the church wrong, or is the real sin abusing the “lower” classes? Is having rules and order wrong, or is the real heresy making a doctrine out of church government?
And, let’s again not beat around the bush. Jesus Christ is not here yet. God’s government is not on the earth yet. The Millennium is not here yet. Anyone who tells you that their church is God’s government on the earth now is a liar.
Let me state that again: Anyone who tells you that their church is God’s government now on the earth is a liar.
It is just an attempt to exert power and authority over you. It is just the opposite of the selfless love, outgoing concern (an attitude put into action), that Jesus commanded His disciples to have.
35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35, King James Version)
Otherwise, it is just so much megalomania. Please, if you are going to try that line of bull, then at least be honest enough to join the Catholic Church! They are the original ones that claimed their pope was God’s infallible representative on earth and must be obeyed. They even own land and have ambassadors to other countries. Now, there’s government for you!
Jesus Christ is going to come to set up His Father’s government on the earth. Until then, we had better start learning to govern ourselves. And we cannot do that while trying to run everyone else’s life and spiritually abusing them. We also cannot do that while scurrying off into tangents and idolizing forms of government and the positions of men.
May God put out such Satanic teachings from His Church!
When it comes to who are the Nicolaitians, the historical evidence is sparce. As to how far to take the internal meaning of the word 'Nicolaitians', that too can be somewhat vague in how should it be applied.
In this case I would prefer to go the 'let scripture interpret scripture' route. Albeit not much is given under the word Nicolaitian, but somethings can be found under what Revelation meantions about them.
They exhibit "deeds", they have "doctrine" both of which God "also hates". Are there any other scriptures that can shed some light on those things?
"but of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom (Ps 45:6). You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness." (Heb 1:8-9 NET)
Something which Jesus also hates is lawlessness. Are there any more scriptures which can tie into what is meantioned about the Nicolaitians?
Rather than fleshing out the scriptures here, seeing I do not have the time, perhaps such an approach would be more profitable for everyone. A person may still not know the 'exact' nature of who were the Nicolaitians and what 'exactly' did they teach and do. But by coming to terms with all the things scripture says about what God hates, you can be sure they fit in there somewhere.
@Norbert: There are those who have stated that "Nicolaitans" refers to antinomians.
Because the evidence is so sparse, I'm not going to say they are wrong. I'm also not going to say for a certainty that either Youngblood or Allen are wrong.
I guess my answer to the name is two-fold, though:
1. God calls things as He sees them. When they don't fit, He renames them. Since Jesus is giving the presentation to John, I believe that any church that is "Philadelphian" really should exhibit brotherly love, "Laodicean" is really judgmental and "Nicolaitan" is in some way abusing the lay people. However, that still leaves quite a bit of leeway for people to interpret or misinterpret events.
2. You can take just about anything too far. In fact, when it comes to 2 of the above terms, I think a lot of emotion and baggage is carried with them.
Whether or not you agree with the possible explanation of the Nicolaitans (and it is just a possibility, mind you), I hope the main point that abusing other brethren is not Godly. I will continue to speak out against such ungodly behavior with the sound of a trumpet.
They will have to account to God one day. I would hate to stand before God and say I was an accomplice because I kept silent about such a serious matter.
Yes, we all will give account, no doubt about that concern. My own preference is to try and understand those possiblities with the scriptures (Pr 6:18-19). Whether they have been historically done or presently apply in a subtle 21st century manner.
@Norbert: I agree, unless of course the "brethren" are the wicked (Pr 26:5; Ps 101:4; 82:1-2). Those who break up families and oppress widows are without a doubt among the most wicked (Ex 22:22; Dt 10:17-18). Those who oppress the brethren are in much the same boat (Mt 24:48-51; 25:45). May those who do so in God's name receive twice a curse (Ps 68:2).
As far as brethren go, there are times even to confront them (Isa 58:1; Mt 18:15-17), but I would assume that would be done differently.
"But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."