"But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate" (Rev. 2:6).
Have you ever wondered who the “Nicolaitans” were, mentioned in the book of Revelation? Whoever they were, Yahushua loathed their doctrine and hated their deeds. Let’s delve into this subject today to see if we can ascertain the identity of this group. What was their damnable doctrine? What deeds were they committing that elicited such a strong reaction from Yahushua?
Let’s begin in Revelation 2:6, where Yahushua told the church of Ephesus, “But this thou hast [in your favor], that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Yahushua was proud of the church of Ephesus for their “hatred” of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also “hated.” The word “hate” is a strong word, so let’s see exactly what it means. It comes from the Greek word "miseo," which means "to hate, to abhor, or to find utterly repulsive." It describes a person who has a deep-seated animosity, who is antagonistic to something he finds to be completely objectionable. He not only loathes that object, but rejects it entirely. This is not just a case of dislike; it is a case of actual hatred.
The thing Yahushua hated about them was their “deeds.” The word “deeds” is the Greek word "erga," which means "works." However, this word is so all-encompassing that it pictures all the deeds and behavior of the Nicolaitans — including their actions, beliefs, conduct, and everything else connected to them.
The name “Nicolaitans” is derived from the Greek word "nikolaos," a compound of the words nikos and laos. The word "nikos" is the Greek word that means "to conquer or to subdue." The word "laos" is the Greek word for "the people." It is also where we get the word "laity." When these two words are compounded into one, they form the name Nicolas, which literally means "one who conquers and subdues the people." It seems to suggest that the Nicolaitans were somehow conquering and subduing the people.
Ireneus and Hippolytus, two leaders in the Early Church who recorded many of the events that occurred in the earliest recorded days of Church history, said the Nicolaitans were the spiritual descendants of Nicolas of Antioch, who had been ordained as a deacon in Acts 6:5. That verse says, “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch” (emphasis added).
We know quite a lot of information about some of these men who were chosen to be the first deacons, whereas little is known of others. For instance, we know that the chief criteria for their selection was that they were men “of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). Once they had been chosen, they were presented by the people to the apostles, who laid hands on them, installing and officially ordaining them into the deaconate. "And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost [Spirit], and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them (Acts 6:5-6).
Like the other men, Stephen was of "honest report, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom." However, Acts 6:5 makes a remark about Stephen that is unique only to him. It says that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” This may have been a contributing factor to the development recorded in Acts 6:8: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”
Stephen was an Elohim-called evangelist, and he was later privileged to be the first martyr in the history of the Church, who was killed in the presence of Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as the apostle Paul (see Acts 7:58-8:1). The deaconate ministry was a vital proving ground to prepare Stephen for the office of an evangelist. The name Stephen is from the Greek word "stephanos," and it means "crown." This is worth noting, for he was the first to receive a martyr’s crown.
Philip was ordained with the other six original deacons. However, Acts 21:8 informs us that Philip later stepped into the ministry of an evangelist. He had four daughters who prophesied. "And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy" (Acts 21:8-9).
"Just as the office of deacon was training and proving ground for Stephen to step into the office of the evangelist, it was also Philip’s ministry to prepare him for evangelistic ministry. The name Philip means "lover of horses." This name often symbolized "a person who ran with swiftness, as does a horse." A fitting name for a New Testament evangelist who ran swiftly to carry the Gospel message.
Very little is known about this member of the original deacons. His name, Prochorus, is a compound of the Greek words "pro" and "chorus." The word "pro" means "before or in front of," as with "the position of a leader." The word “chorus” is the Greek word for "the dance" and is "where we get the word choreography." There is a strong implication that this was a nickname, given to this man because he may had been the foremost leader of dance in some school, theater, or musical performance. There is no substantiation for this idea, but his name seems to give credence to the possibility.
This unknown deacon was found to be of "honest report, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). Other than this, nothing is known of him. He is never mentioned again in the New Testament after Acts 6. His name, Nicanor, means "conqueror."
Like Nicanor mentioned above, Timon was known to be "of honest report, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). Nothing more is known of him outside of Acts 6. His name means "honorable or of great value."
We know nothing more of Parmenas other than what is mentioned here in Acts 6. His name is a compound of the Greek words "para" and "meno." The word "para" meaning "alongside" and "meno" meaning "to remain or to abide." Compounded together, his name came to mean "one who sticks alongside" and conveyed the idea of "one who is devoted, loyal, and faithful."
Acts 6:5 tells us that this Nicolas was “a proselyte of Antioch.” The fact that he was a proselyte tells us that he was not born a Jew but had converted from paganism to Judaism. He then experienced a second conversion. This time turning from Judaism to Christianity. From this information, we know these facts about Nicolas of Antioch:
He came from paganism and had pagan roots; much unlike the other six deacons who came from the Hebrew ancestry. Whether he was immrsed in the occult during his pagan background is unknown.
He was not afraid of taking an opposing position, evidenced by his ability to change religions twice. Converting to Judaism would have estranged him from his pagan family and friends.
He was a free thinker and open to embracing new ideas and concepts. Judaism was very different from the pagan and occult world in which he had been raised. For him to shift from paganism to Judaism reveals that he was liberal in his thinking, for most pagans were offended by Judaism. He was obviously not afraid to entertain or embrace new ways of thinking.
When he converted to Messiah, it was at least the second time he had converted from one religion to another. We don’t know if, or how many times, he shifted from one form of paganism to another before he became a Jewish proselyte. His ability to change religions implies that he was not afraid to switch direction in midstream and go in a totally different direction.
According to the writings of the Early Church leaders, Nicolas taught "a doctrine of compromise," implying that total separation between Christianity and the practice of occult paganism was not essential. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). Having come from a background which included paganism, Judaism and then Christianity, he may have had no problem intermingling these belief systems in various concoctions and saw no reason why believers couldn’t continue to fellowship with those still immersed in paganism. This gives us insight into what would later take place in the amalgamation of early Christianity and paganism evolving into the Roman Catholic Church.
Paganism was a major force that warred against the Early Church. In Ephesus, the primary pagan religion was the worship of Diana (Artemis). There were many other forms of idolatry in Ephesus, but this was the primary object of pagan worship in that city. In the city of Pergamos, there were numerous dark and sinister forms of paganism, causing Pergamos to be one of the most wicked cities in the history of the ancient world. In both of these cities, believers were lambasted and persecuted fiercely by adherents of pagan religions, forced to contend with paganism on a level far beyond all other cities.
It may have been very difficult for believers to live separately from all the activities of paganism because paganism and its religions were the center of life in these cities. This is what we are contending with in the world today, only it is much more subtle and for that reason the more dangerous. Being surrounded by a form of Christianity which is largely made up of pagan beliefs, customs and practices, we may not realize the danger of being corrupted by those beleifs beliving them to be of Bible origin. Slipping in and out of paganism would have been very easy for young or weak believers to do since most of their families and friends were still pagans. A converted Gentile would have found it very difficult to stay away from all pagan influences, as many do today when they continue to mingle with family and friends of have only a form of Christianity and not the true religion of the Bible. Paul found the converts from paganism to Christianity in the city of Gatalia slipping back into their former ways and was fearful for them.
"But now, after that you have known Elohim, or rather are known of Elohim, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage. You observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain" (Galatians 4:9-11). They began observing, once again, the pagan holidays (not holy days) that Paul had brought them out of.
It is significant that the “deeds” and “doctrines” of the Nicolaitans are only mentioned in connection with the churches in these two occultic and pagan cities. It seems that the “doctrine” of the Nicolaitans was that it was all right to have one foot in both worlds and that one need not be so strict about separation from the world in order to be a Christian. This, in fact, was the “doctrine” of the Nicolaitans that Yahushua “hated.” It led to a weakened version of Christianity that was without power and without conviction — a defeated, worldly type of Christianity. This is what we are once again facing in the world today. We are to come "out of Babylon" where paganism had its roots. All the religions of this world have been corrupted by the wine (the doctrines of paganism) of Babylon, including all of Chritianity. "With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Rev. 17:2).
"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and Elohim hath remembered her iniquities" (Rev. 18:1-5, emphasis added).
Nicolas’ deep roots in paganism may have produced in him a tolerance for occultism and paganism just as those only partially converted from the forms of Christianity in our world today. Growing up in this perverted spiritual environment may have caused him to view these belief systems as not so damaging or dangerous. Do we see what is passing off as Chritianity see the danger? This wrong perception would have resulted in a very liberal viewpoint that encouraged people to stay connected to the world. This is what numerous Bible scholars believe about the Nicolaitans. Again this is what we are seeing in the world today, including all of Chritianity.
This kind of teaching would result in nothing but total defeat for its followers. When believers allow sin and compromise to be in their lives, it drains away the power of the Spirit of Elohim that has come into the believer’s life. This is the reason the name Nicolas is so vital to this discussion. The evil fruit of Nicolas’ “doctrine” encouraged worldly participation, leading people to indulge in sin and a lowered godly standard. In this way, he literally conquered the people and is how Satan is conquering the people (even the so-called Christians) in today's world. The Spirit of Elohim cannot remain in a believer's life when paganism is indulged in. The inherited, fallen, human nature is nourished and kept alive and thriving when we feed it from this world's storehouse of paganism and the Spirit of Elohim is eventually silenced.
Elohim wants to make sure we understand the doctrine the Nicolaitans taught, so Balaam’s actions are given as an example of their doctrine and actions. Revelation 2:14, 15 says, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
When Balaam could not successfully curse the people of Elohim, he used another method to destroy them. He seduced them into unbridled, sensual living by dangling the prostitutes of Moab before the men of Israel. Numbers 25:1-3 tells us, “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they [the daughters of Moab] called the people [the men of Israel] unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people [the men of Israel] did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor.”
Just as the men of Israel compromised themselves with the world and false religions, now the “doctrine” of the Nicolaitans is encouraging compromise. As you are well aware, compromise with the world always results in a weakened and powerless form of Christianity. This was the reason Yahushua Messiah “hated” the “doctrine” and the “deeds” of the Nicolaitans.