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Revelation 7 Churches (Chapters 1-3) PowerPoint Presentation
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Revelation 7 Churches (Chapters 1-3)

Revelation 7 Churches (Chapters 1-3)

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Revelation 7 Churches (Chapters 1-3)

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  1. Revelation 7 Churches (Chapters 1-3)

  2. Revelation 1:1-20The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

  3. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. Isaiah 41:4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he. Isaiah 48:12Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Isaiah 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Revelation 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

  4. 9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

  5. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

  6. 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

  7. Four Gospels MatthewMarkLukeJohn The four gospels record the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He came to fulfill all the scriptures in the Old Testament that spoke of Him as the promised Messiah, the eternal Son of God and saviour of the world.  After His resurrection Jesus gave the great commission to his followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. But before doing this, they were told to tarry in Jerusalem to receive power from on high (the gift or baptism in the Holy Spirit - seeThe Great Commission). The firstfruits of the church was birthed on the day of Pentecost (120 believers in the upper room) and grew by the thousands as recorded in the book of Acts 1 and 2.

  8. The gospel was preached first in Jerusalem, Judea and then throughout all of Rome as recorded in the book of Acts which covered a time period known as the apostolic era (first 40 years of the church age).  The book of Acts has no AMEN to it since the church age is still ongoing and growing today. The book of Revelations picks up the history of the church where Acts left off. Rev 1 introduces the resurrected Christ whom John sees as standing among seven churches. John is told to write what he sees and hears to these seven churches. These 7 churches are unique in that they speak prophetically of seven worldwide changes within the church age until the rapture.  These 7 churches are in historical prophetic order in Acts 2 and 3.  The rapture is recorded in Acts 4. Jesus has something to say to each of these prophetic time periods in the church age. Every true believer will identify himself with one of these churches. When each prophetic church period was fulfilled its historical changes continued on down through church history right up to the rapture in the people that they represented.  Today, their are churches and denominations that are a result of one of these 7 worldwide prophetic historical changes in the church age.

  9. The 7 Prophetic Churches of Asia: What Jesus said

  10. Church of Ephesus (End of Acts – 100 A.D.) APOSTLIC CHURCH Revelation 2:1Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; Revelation 2:2-3 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Acts 20:28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

  11. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Revelation 2:4-5 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. The church’s first love was laboring for Christ and fulfilling the great commission. With Church growth came man-made Church organization. Loyalty to Christ is replaced withloyalty to the Church. Money is spent on Church to be more comfortable and missionary spirit and fire of the early Church diminishes to church loyalty and its preaching rather thanChrist and His Word. Remove thy candlestick; extinguish the light of thy church--an awful warning which Christ fulfilled long ago to the church in Ephesus, that has been for centuries extinct, and which he has fulfilled to many unfaithful churches since.

  12. Revelation 2:6But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicola tans, which I also hate. There is no recorded sect called Nicolaitions. However, Nico is the greek word ‘to conquer’ and laitanes the root word for english word ‘laity’. Putting those words together we have ‘conquerors of the laity’. A new group growing up with the church to get priestly or ecclesiastical control over the church. Church loyalty to Christis replaced by church loyalty to themselves. Jesus saw this as such a dangerous movement. Eventually such churches seek alliance through union, federation, political, for worldly gain, prominence, position by their means rather than the position Christ has given the believers in their heavenly positions. The Church is to be a heavenly organism with Risen Christ as it’s head and life not an earthly organization ruled by an ecclesiastical elite. When this happens the doctrines of the nicolatians have been manifested in their deeds.

  13. Revelation 2:7He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Revelation 22:1-2And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

  14. The 7 Prophetic Churches of Asia: What Jesus said

  15. Church of Smyrna (100 A.D. – 300 A.D.) PERSECUTED CHURCH Revelation 2:8And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. God knows their good works, their tribulation, and poverty. However, God says they are rich and that is because they are saved and have a rich inheritance awaiting them in heaven. Ephesians 1:18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

  16. Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. The idea seems to be, that though they were of Jewish extraction, and professed to be Jews, they were not true Jews; they indulged in a bitterness of reproach, and a severity of language, which showed that they had not the spirit of the Jewish religion; they had nothing which became those who were under the guidance of the spirit of their own Scriptures. That would have inculcated and fostered a milder temper; and the meaning here is, that although they were of Jewish origin, they were not worthy of the name. That spirit of bitter opposition was indeed often manifested in their treatment of Christians, as it had been of the Saviour, but still it was foreign to the true nature of their religion (Barnes commentary) Synagogue of Satan. The synagogue was a Jewish place of worship, but the word originally denoted the assembly or congregation. The meaning here is plain, that though they worshipped in a synagogue,

  17. and professed to be the worshippers of God, yet they were not worthy of the name, and deserved rather to be regarded as in the service of Satan. Revelation 2:10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Jesus tells the faithful to fear none of the tribulation and poverty they are experiencing. Also that some of them shall be cast into prison and be tried. Rev 12:10 tells us Satan is the accuser of the believers before God’s throne day and night. Satan is making an all out attempt to wipe out the Church of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:10-11And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

  18. Revelation 2:10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. This tribulation period of being cast into prison is to last ten days. The number ten used symbolically or prophetically is used as a round number – that is –any number.Parable of the 10 virgins (Matt 25) denotes a round number or x amount. The 10 virgins were grouped into 5 wise and 5 foolish. Here the number 5 means division. Ten toes of Daniel 2 and ten horns of Daniel 7. Both symbolize the nations in the last days that formed within what was call ed the old Roman Empire land area. Many look for a literal 10 nations and miss the fact that God is simply saying X amount nations will exist within what was known as the old Roman Empire land area in the last days. Rev 5 talks of tens of thousands of angels times ten thousands around God’s throne. God is using round numbers but evidently the Angels number over 100,000,000 and thousands times thousands more.

  19. Revelation 2:10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Some Bible scholars see the ten days as the 10 Roman Emperors each having their own successive periods and each persecuting the Church

  20. Revelation 2:10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Jesus asked the persecuted believers to be faithful unto and they will be given a crown of life. The faithful in Ephesus were given entrance into the Kingdom and to eat of the tree of life (Rev 2:7). The message to the martyrs is a special entrance wearing a martyrs crown. James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

  21. Revelation 2:11He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Again, as with Church of Ephesus we have a promise to him that overcometh. He or she will not be hurt by the second death. Who is he that overcometh. The answer is 1 John 5:4 1 John 5:4,5For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? What is the second death? God’s plans for man from creation were always eternal. Because of the fall of man there are two Deaths man can experience. Both of these deaths involve separation.1. First death: Physical death is a separation of the body from mans soul and spirit. Man is a tri-part being. The soul cloths the spirit and the body clothes the soul. When physical death takes place the body that clothed the soul dies but the soul that clothes the spirit is eternal because it has a spirit. Paul prayed for the whole man to be present at Christ’s coming

  22. 1 Thessalonians 5:23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2. Second death: Soul of man is judged by God and is cast into the lake of fire eternally separated from God Revelation 20:11-15And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

  23. The 7 Prophetic Churches of Asia: What Jesus said

  24. Church of Pergamos (300 A.D. – 600 A.D.) WORLDLY CHURCH Revelation 2:12And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; Pergamum was a seat of Emperor worship. Where incense was offered before the statue of the Emperor as to God. Refusal by Christians often meant death. Also, an Alter to Jupiter and a Temple of Esculapius, a healing god, worshipped in the form of a serpent, one of the names of Satan. Besides these, it was also a stronghold of Balaamite and Nocolaitian Teachers. Thus, Pergamum, was a notorious center of heathenism and wickness, and was also called by Jesus, Satan’s throne.

  25. Church of Pergamos (300 A.D. – 600 A.D.) WORLDLY CHURCH Revelation 2:12And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; The sharp sword with two edges refers back to Rev 1:16 which John saw coming out of Jesus’s mouth. This reference is appropriate to this Church and has a twofold bearing, a searching power so as to convict and convert some (Re 2:13,17), and to convict and condemn to punishment others (Re 2:14-16) Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

  26. Revelation 2:13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. God knows their works and those that were holding fast to worshipping Jesus and knew all about the city of Pergamos where they dwelled. Pergamos was the capital city of Asia until the close of the first century. It was a city given over to worship of many Greek idols. Local Roman rulership, unable to cope with the multitude of religious differences in the city, demanded the cooperation of all groups. Two of the most prominent religious systems of the city were the worship of Bacchus (god of revelry) and Asclepius (god of healing).

  27. Revelation 2:13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. Satan’s throne was Pergamos! He dwells there! ‘Seat’ translated in the Greek is ‘thronos’- throne, and is used throughout Revelation that way. Here we have Satan being enthroned in a city for the purpose of ruling his church. It is a visible organization with an earthly throne and has its own religious mysteries and doctrines as opposed to Christ’s living Church (an organism with Christ as the head and the Church as His body – Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches) and God’s throne in heaven where Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. The Church of Christ has its mysteries called Mysteries of the Kingdom. Jesus taught them in parables and the Apostles expanded on them. Believers who obey the Word of God can understand with their spirit but the unsaved cannot for they are spiritually discerned.

  28. Satan’s Church Christ’s Church

  29. It is no surprise that Satan would choose a city to establish his earthly religious throne. After all Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4) and currently all the kingdoms of this earth are under his reign. 2 Corinthians 4:3,4But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Matthew 4:8,9Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. This is why Jesus said to Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world. The Kingdom of God is from heaven and currently being set up in the hearts of the saved believers and will be visibly set up with a throne in Jerusalem when Christ returns.

  30. John 18:35,36Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. When Christ returns He will then overthrow Satan’s worldly kingdoms and they will be given over to the saints. Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 21:3-5And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

  31. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. Satan’s first idolatrous system and religious throne connected with a particular city happened after the flood of Noah. The city was Babylon where the tower of Babel was built and the principal architect used by Satan was Nimrod. As long as Babylon was dominant world power it was an excellent headquarters for Satan’s attack on men. However, when Babylon’s glory began to decline and was left desolate Satan looked for another location. Pergamum was ideal because of it’s strong idolatrous religions and to propagate many of the ancient Babylonia mysteries and rituals. In Ephesus we had the deeds of the Nicolations (conquerors of the laity – roots of the priesthood). In Pergamum we now have the doctrines (vs 15) of the Nicolations.

  32. Revelation 2:13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. Who is Antipas the Lord’s faithful martyr There is no record of any one person name Antipas. We assume Antipas is a type representative of all the martyrs up to that time when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire ending Christian persecution to death.

  33. Revelation 2:14But 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. Doctrine of Balaam? Balaam was a mighty Prophet Numbers 22-31. Balak, the King of Moab was afraid of the children of Israel as they were going through his land and paid Balaam to curse Israel. But every time Balaam opened his mouth to curse He blessed Israel for God was with Israel. Balaam, seeing Balak obviously frustrated and also paying him went on to adviseBalak how to make the children of lsrael to stumble. Allow them to mix with Moabite women, commit fornication, and to eat meat sacrificed to their idols. This was an unholy alliancewith paganism and so at Balaam’s suggestion the children of Israel became polluted spiritually and socially. This unholy alliance happened followed the persecuted Church of Smyrna. Now, during this time period of Pergamum the devil changed tactics and used infiltration. Since he could not kill of the Christians by cursing them he used Emperor

  34. Constantine to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire making the Church a state church. Daniel had prophesized this corruption of the Church in Daniel 11:7. Balaam’s doctrines of eating things sacrified to idols and fornication translated to spiritual terms is the use of idols and praying to them (sacrificing) and spirtual fornication – Church demanding and getting special favors from the state and the state in return benefitting from these. This basic union of Church and State is a basic doctrine of the Romish Church. The true Christian Church has no need fro idols or charms and yet the Church of the Pergamum period allowed these Babylonian mysteries to infiltrate the Church while as yet it was not fully developed bishops, cardinals, dioceses, popes, or any of the inventions that came later. Some of the Babylonian mysteries superimposed on the Church were the Chaldean tau, which was the elevation of a large ‘T’ on the end of a pole, was changed to sign of the cross. Rosary of pagan origen was intrduced. Celibacy of priests and nuns, having no scriptural verifications but the counterpart to vestal virgins and priests of paganism. Below is a list from this period

  35. Revelation 2:15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. The Harlot Church System - Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr. NICOLAITANS' NAME The first clue as to who they were can be found in what they were called--Nicolaitans. The word Nicolaitan comes from two Greek words: nike and laios. Nike means "to conquer," "subdue," "overcome," and laos refers to a body of people, the common people. Nikos is the equivalent to nike and has been translated "victory." When combined, these two terms translate "conqueror [or subduer] of the common people." These "conquerors of the people" were among the assembly of called-out-ones in Ephesus and Pergamos. They obviously had some major influence among the saints. (Some scholars say they were followers of Nicolas who was one of the deacons in Acts 6:5. They speculate that Nicolas went into deception and led some of the believers away from the faith. This is impossible to document.) Their name represents who the Nicolaitans were and what they taught. They were those who positioned themselves The Harlot Church System - Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr. Chapter 9 - The Nicolaitans Nicolaitans? Who were the Nicolaitans? They are mentioned only twice in the scriptures and both times with contempt. The first mention of them is in Revelation 2:6. The glorified Jesus told the old apostle John to write to the angel (messenger) of the called-out-ones in Ephesus. In this letter, Jesus praised the Ephesians for their works, labor, patience, and for the fact that they could not bear those who were evil. They had, furthermore, tested those who said they were apostles but were not, and had found them to be liars. The Lord severely admonished them, however, for having left their first love. Perhaps they had all the right doctrines and were doing the good works of a Christian, but were showing more affection for the things of the gospel than for the person of the gospel. Whatever the Ephesians were doing that caused them to leave their first love, it was severe enough for the Lord to call them to repentance. If they did not repent, He would remove their candlestick from them. He would remove the power, presence, and the light of His Holy Spirit. Then the Lord praised them saying, "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." The only other reference to the Nicolaitans is in Revelation 2:15. The called-out-ones in Pergamos had those among them who held to the doctrine (teachings) of the Nicolaitans. Regarding them Jesus said, "So you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." He hated what they were teaching. From these two references, we know that the Lord hated their "deeds" and their "doctrines" (teachings). It appears that we are left to speculate about who they were, what their deeds were, and what they taught. Not so! The evidence of what they did and what they taught is revealed in scripture. We learn who they were by what they did and what they taught. By this, we learn who they are in the churches today. NICOLAITANS' NAME The first clue as to who they were can be found in what they were called--Nicolaitans. The word Nicolaitan comes from two Greek words: nike and laios. Nike means "to conquer," "subdue," "overcome," and laos refers to a body of people, the common people. Nikos is the equivalent to nike and has been translated "victory." When combined, these two terms translate "conqueror [or subduer] of the common people." These "conquerors of the people" were among the assembly of called-out-ones in Ephesus and Pergamos. They obviously had some major influence among the saints. (Some scholars say they were followers of Nicolas who was one of the deacons in Acts 6:5. They speculate that Nicolas went into deception and led some of the believers away from the faith. This is impossible to document.) Their name represents who the Nicolaitans were and what they taught. They were those who positioned themselves above the "common" people as having some authority over them and taught that this was the way things were supposed to be. I believe this was the beginning of the clergy system that came into prominence in the historical, institutional church system. The clergy refers to persons who are ordained for religious service such as ministers, priests, and rabbis. The word cleric is sometimes used in relation to a clergy person. Clericalism is the "political influence or power of the clergy, or a policy or principles favoring this: generally a derogatory term." 3 {16} The clergy system in the churches advocates the elevation of the "professional" ministers above common believers. ASSOCIATED WITH BALAAM The second clue as to who the Nicolaitans were is found in the association of their name with Balaam. In Revelation 2:15, the King James Version translation reads, "So you also have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans..." The word "also" comes from the Greek word kai which can be translated "and," "also," or "even" depending upon the context in which it is used. The Greek text has, in addition to kai, the word omoios which means "likewise." Some of the translations dropped omoios and missed an important aspect of interpretation. The New American Standard kept it and translated it, "in the same way." It reads, "Thus, you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." We ask, "in the same way" as who? The answer to that question is found in the previous verses. In Revelation 2:14-15, the Lord said, "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. Thus, you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." I suggest, therefore, that this reference to Balaam is the antecedent of the phrase "in the same way." "The doctrine of Balaam" (v. 14) and "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans" (v.15) is referring to the same thing or things. If, therefore, "the doctrine of Balaam" is that to which the phrase "in the same way" refers, then it is necessary to find out more about Balaam in order to find out more about the Nicolaitans. SAY, DO, AND BE First, however, consider these three virtues of God's true ministers: they will say what God says, do what God says do, and be what God wants them to be. They cannot do otherwise. They are unlike Balaam in the Old Testament as told about in Numbers 22-24. Balaam could not be what he was not. Balak was the King of the Moabites at the time the Israelites pitched their tents in the land of Moab. Balak was fearful of what the Israelites might do to his people because he saw that they had struck the Amorites and taken their cities. So he sent messengers to hire Balaam to come and speak a curse against these Israelites who had come out of Egypt. Balaam was a non-Israelite prophet. Balaam was certainly enticed by the price they offered him, but warned Balak that he was bound to say the words that God put in His mouth. Balaam did just that. He spoke four prophecies favoring Israel, and one opposing Balak. Why then was Balaam looked upon with such disdain in both the Old and the New Testaments? Remember, it takes all three virtues to be a true minister of God: say what God says to say, do what God says to do, and be what God would have one to be. Balaam fell miserably short when it came to this third virtue to be. Here is how we know. THE MATTER AT PEOR Later on in Numbers 31, we read where God told Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites for the sons of Israel. He had sent his captains and warriors from every tribe and the priests with the holy vessels and the trumpets of alarm. They killed every male and the kings of Midian. They burned the cities and took the spoil, but they captured the women and brought them back with them. Moses and others went out to meet his returning army and saw what they had done. He was angry with the officers and asked them why they had spared the women. It would seem like the noble thing to do, would it not? Moses explained his anger in verse 16: "Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor." So, what happened at Peor and what did Balaam have to do with that? Apparently everything! We see in Numbers 25 that Israel played the harlot with the daughters of Moab: "They called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel." Num. 25:2-3. Remember, God had made it emphatically clear that the Israelites were not to mingle with the people of the land. Deut. 7:1-6. No reference is made whatsoever to Balaam in Numbers 25, but Numbers 31:16 informs us that this "sin" at Peor was due to the counsel of Balaam. In Numbers 22-24 we read how Balak offered both money and prestige to Balaam to get him to pronounce a curse against the Israelites. Balaam was not about to miss his opportunity for fortune and prominence. Balaam must have known about this ban that God had set forth as recorded in Deuteronomy 7 and used it to defeat the Israelites. He "taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication." Rev. 2:13. In other words, Balaam counseled Balak to entice the Israelite sons and daughters to mix with the sons and daughters of Moab. This way, Balaam did not have to speak the curse, but he ensured that Israel would place themselves under a curse. Israel did just that. They played the harlot and brought the curse of a plague upon themselves that killed twenty-four thousand of their own. Num. 25:9. Balaam collected his blood money and prepared to live lavishly among the kings of Midian. His life, however, was short-lived after that. Numbers 31:8 tells us that he was killed with the sword when Israel took vengeance on the Midianites. He was a false prophet. He was bound to say what God wanted him to say. He was forced even by his jackass (donkey) to do what God wanted, but it was not in him to be what God would have him to be. He was greedy and sought to increase himself in power, position, riches, and domination. He put Himself above the concerns of God and God's people. We are much like Balaam when we ask God to bless our flesh rather than denying our flesh to obey God. BALAAM'S NAME AND REPUTATION Another connection between Balaam and the Nicolaitans is embedded in his name. Balaam's name is the combination of two words from the Hebrew: beli and haam. Beli means "conqueror" and, haam means "the people." Put them together and we get "conqueror of the people." Balaam's name, therefore, translates the same as Nicolaitan. Is this not strong evidence that the reference to Balaam is the antecedent of the phrase "in the same way"? Balaam is also mentioned in 2 Peter 2:15 in the context of false teachers. The false teachers were those "who have forsaken the right way, and have gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet." He is mentioned with disdain in Jude, verse 11: "Woe to them," Jude writes, "for they...ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward." These three New Testament witnesses against Balaam are harsh to say the least. Each of them speak of greed. Nicolaitans cause God's people to commit spiritual fornication by joining them to their idolatrous church systems. SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT Having looked into who Balaam was, we come back to our original question: Who, then, were the Nicolaitans? They were leaders within the Christian community who were false prophets "in the same way" as was Balaam. They were ministers among the assembly of called-out-ones who were motivated by greed and self-aggrandizement--the need to increase themselves in power, position, riches, and domination. They had managed to exalt themselves in leadership roles above those "common" called-out-ones. The New Testament mentions Diotrephes, who possessed this Nicolaitan spirit. The end of the first century A.D. was nearing when the aged apostle John wrote his third epistle. He wrote to the well beloved Gaius and addressed his grief over one who was known as Diotrephes. It appears from the letter that Diotrephes had positioned himself in an uncommon place of authority among an assembly of called-out-ones. He loved to have preeminence among them. 3 John 1:9. He not only refused to welcome the apostle John and others of the brethren, but removed from the assembly those who did dare to welcome them. 3 John 1:10-11. The desire for preeminence is a characteristic of the Nicolaitan spirit. Nicolaitans are those who seek to elevate themselves above the so-called laity. I say they are "so-called" because no such distinctions are made in the New Testament between professional clergy and laity. Such distinctions smack insults at the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The clerical exercise of such authority over the called-out-ones sprang up throughout all Christendom soon after the turn of the first century. This reference to Diotrephes in 3 John is clear evidence that it had already taken root. Nicolaitans are like goats. They like high places. THE NICOLAITAN IN ME I was raised in institutional Christianity. The Nicolaitan (clergy) spirit was programmed into me from childhood by those who had it programmed into them. It's generational. It was all I had ever seen or known. I had no way of knowing that ministry could be anything other than what my experiences and education taught me. So, I pursued the normal course of ministry that was expected of me. I answered the call to ministry when I was about twelve years of age and enrolled immediately out of high school in the denominational college that trained me for ministry. Years later I finished with a Masters of Divinity degree from seminary. I had taken the usual run of classes in Bible and religion that trained me to perpetuate the system I was in. I had been trained by the clergy system to be one of their own. I was hired by the elders of a local church to be their pastor. I was the chief administrator and, for all practical purposes, was the professional hired to lead the work of the church. After twelve years behind the pulpit, I turned away from God and left the ministry. Following my conversion years later, God pinned me down in what I call my wilderness experience. It lasted for many years. God put me through His school of the Holy Spirit. This was a time of learning the word of God for myself, of receiving revelations, and of being purged of many spots and wrinkles. One particular day on my wilderness journey, I was in prayer with the Lord when I saw in my mind's eye a miniature image of a man standing upon a high cliff, arms folded, chest puffed out, head cocked back, full of arrogance and pride. After doing a double-take, I said, "Lord, that looks like me!" I knew that I was seeing a "spirit" of preeminence. I knew that it was the Nicolaitan spirit that had been implanted in me since early childhood. This was that clergy spirit of self-aggrandizement. As soon as I saw this, I renounced it and asked the Lord to separate it from me. It has taken years for that to happen. THE RISE OF BISHOPS This Nicolaitan spirit is deceptive and deadly. It is deeply entrenched in most of the men and women who have been trained and nurtured to minister in the church system. Nicolaitan personalities have ruled in the churches since the first century A.D. In spite of those exceptions like Diotrephes, simplicity seemed to have characterized the life of the called-out-ones that we know about from the New Testament until after the death of John. Little is known about the activities of the called-out-ones for those few years between the death of John and the turn of the century. When the pages of church history began to flip again into the beginning of the second century, an interesting thing had occurred. Certain ones bore the title of bishop, such as Polycarp of Smyrna, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polybius of Tralles, and Onesimus of Ephesus. These were godly men, defenders of the faith, some of whom were martyrs for Jesus, but were nonetheless caught up in the power and position of the bishopric. Justo Gonzalez points out in his Story of Christianity that James, the brother of Jesus, was erroneously given the title of "bishop" of Jerusalem by church leaders in later years. 3 {17} Gonzalez explains that "the emphasis on the authority of bishops and on apostolic succession was a part of the response of the church to the challenge of heresies in the late second and early third centuries. As the church became increasingly Gentile, the danger of heresies was greater, and this in turn led to a greater stress on episcopal [bishop] authority." 3 {18} By the time of the monastic movement in the late third and early fourth centuries, bishops lived in great cities and enjoyed great power and prestige. Moreover, the bishopric had become an office to be filled rather than a calling by God upon a man. The story is told of a man named Martin, born in 335 A.D., who lived the monastic life and was elected to the office of bishop of Tours by popular demand. Gonzalez wrote, "When the bishopric of Tours became vacant, the populace wanted to elect Martin to that position. The story goes that some of the bishops present at the election opposed such an idea, arguing that Martin was unusually dirty, dressed in rags, and disheveled, and that his election would damage the prestige of the office of bishop." 3 {19} This story tells us that the bishopric of Tours had become a position or office to which men could be elected. What was once a calling of God upon individual men has since become an institution of men. Many churches in the Presbyterian tradition have elected men, women, and young people as elders to fill a certain number of positions for limited terms. Where is any of this in the Bible? According to New Testament records, elders were appointed in every city and they existed in plurality. No man was given that responsibility alone. Elders were not called bishop nor pastor. They were elders who shepherded the flock of God among whom the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (which is the Greek word episcopous, also translated "bishop"). Acts 20:20 NKJV. The terms elder, shepherd, and overseer refer to the same person. Elder has to do with who they were. Shepherd has to do with what they did. Overseer has to do with how they did what they did. An elder is one who is called of God to perform a function in the body of Christ and was never intended to be a position, office, title, or institution in the Kingdom of God. This unscriptural "office" of bishop was the seedbed in which the hierarchical system of clergymen took root and flourished in the eventual rise of the Roman Catholic Church. The power of the office of bishop was such that simony became an issue in the church. Simony is the buying and selling of ecclesiastical (church) positions. Similarly, nobles, kings, and emperors were known to have appointed and investitured bishops and abbots in order to have political control of the church. The veneration that is bestowed upon popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests has to be most revolting to the Holy Spirit of God; especially that the Pope, a man, should be called, Holy Father. The word cardinal when used as an adjective means "of foremost importance; paramount." 3 {20} Jesus exhorted His followers regarding this need for veneration: "But you are not to be called Rabbi: for one is your Master, Christ; and all you are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither are you to be called masters: for one is your Master, Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." Matt. 23:8-12. In spite of the Reformation and other spiritual awakenings, the influence of the clergy system abounds in every denomination and independent church. Any challenge to a person's exalted position as "Pastor" (or whatever title they go by) are fighting words to most. Nevertheless, I boldly declare that the Nicolaitans today are all those who promote the clergy system, which separates the so-called "professional" ministry from the so-called laity. They are those who seek to increase themselves in power, position, riches, and domination and generally do so at the expense of the saints. This "clergy system" is the work of the harlot spirit in the churches. EAT THE SHEEP The Nicolaitans are those shepherds of Ezekiel 34 whom God prophesied against for feeding themselves when they should have fed the flock. They ate the fat and clothed themselves with wool, killed those who were fed, did not strengthen the diseased, did not heal those who were sick, did not bind up those who were broken, did not bring back those who had been driven away, did not seek those who were lost, and ruled over the ones they did have with force and with cruelty. Their flocks were scattered and became meat to all the beasts of the field. The Lord was against those shepherds. He said He would require His flock at their hands and cause them to cease from feeding the flock. They would no longer be able to feed themselves off of the flock because He promised to deliver His sheep from their mouths. His sheep would no longer be meat for them. Ezek. 34:2-5, 10. Dennis Loewen notes, "Balaam did great damage by advising Balak to entice the Israelites through whoredoms to ultimately serve foreign gods. The modern-day Nicolaitans exact the same final effect when they wed the people of God to a foreign god--to another Jesus." Nicolaitans take advantage of the sheep to advance themselves. They eat the sheep to fatten themselves. The time is coming, however, when God Himself will take these sheep from the false shepherds. He will search for His sheep and seek them out Himself. He will feed, tend, lead, and heal them Himself. Ezek. 34:11-16. Present-day Nicolaitans have the same marks of the Pharisees who lived in Jesus' day.

  36. Revelation 2:15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. NICOLAITANS' NAME- Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr. The first clue as to who they were can be found in what they were called--Nicolaitans. The word Nicolaitan comes from two Greek words: nike and laios. Nike means "to conquer," "subdue," "overcome," and laos refers to a body of people, the common people. Nikos is the equivalent to nike and has been translated "victory." When combined, these two terms translate "conqueror [or subduer] of the common people." These "conquerors of the people" were among the assembly of called-out-ones in Ephesus and Pergamos. They obviously had some major influence among the saints. (Some scholars say they were followers of Nicolas who was one of the deacons in Acts 6:5. They speculate that Nicolas went into deception and led some of the believers away from the faith. This is impossible to document.) Their name represents who the Nicolaitans were and what they taught. They were those who positioned themselves

  37. above the "common" people as having some authority over them and taught that this was the way things were supposed to be. I believe this was the beginning of the clergy system that came into prominence in the historical, institutional church system. The clergy refers to persons who are ordained for religious service such as ministers, priests, and rabbis. The word cleric is sometimes used in relation to a clergy person. Clericalism is the "political influence or power of the clergy, or a policy or principles favoring this: generally a derogatory term." 3 {16} The clergy system in the churches advocates the elevation of the "professional" ministers above common believers. ASSOCIATED WITH BALAAM The second clue as to who the Nicolaitans were is found in the association of their name with Balaam. In Revelation 2:15, the King James Version translation reads, "So you also have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans..." The word "also" comes from the Greek word kai which can be translated "and," "also," or "even" depending upon the above the "common" people as having some authority over them and taught that this was the way things were supposed to be. I believe this was the beginning of the clergy system that came into prominence in the historical, institutional church system. The clergy refers to persons who are ordained for religious service such as ministers, priests, and rabbis. The word cleric is sometimes used in relation to a clergy person. Clericalism is the "political influence or power of the clergy, or a policy or principles favoring this: generally a derogatory term." 3 {16} The clergy system in the churches advocates the elevation of the "professional" ministers above common believers. ASSOCIATED WITH BALAAM The second clue as to who the Nicolaitans were is found in the association of their name with Balaam. In Revelation 2:15, the King James Version translation reads, "So you also have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans..." The word "also" comes from the Greek word kai which can be translated "and," "also," or "even" depending upon the

  38. context in which it is used. The Greek text has, in addition to kai, the word omoios which means "likewise." Some of the translations dropped omoios and missed an important aspect of interpretation. The New American Standard kept it and translated it, "in the same way." It reads, "Thus, you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." We ask, "in the same way" as who? The answer to that question is found in the previous verses. In Revelation 2:14-15, the Lord said, "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. Thus, you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." I suggest, therefore, that this reference to Balaam is the antecedent of the phrase "in the same way." "The doctrine of Balaam" (v. 14) and "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans" (v.15) is referring to the same thing or things. If, therefore, "the doctrine of Balaam" is that to which the

  39. phrase "in the same way" refers, then it is necessary to find out more about Balaam in order to find out more about the Nicolaitans. SAY, DO, AND BE First, however, consider these three virtues of God's true ministers: they will say what God says, do what God says do, and be what God wants them to be. They cannot do otherwise. They are unlike Balaam in the Old Testament as told about in Numbers 22-24. Balaam could not be what he was not. Balak was the King of the Moabites at the time the Israelites pitched their tents in the land of Moab. Balak was fearful of what the Israelites might do to his people because he saw that they had struck the Amorites and taken their cities. So he sent messengers to hire Balaam to come and speak a curse against these Israelites who had come out of Egypt. Balaam was a non-Israelite prophet. Balaam was certainly enticed by the price they offered him,

  40. but warned Balak that he was bound to say the words that God put in His mouth. Balaam did just that. He spoke four prophecies favoring Israel, and one opposing Balak. Why then was Balaam looked upon with such disdain in both the Old and the New Testaments? Remember, it takes all three virtues to be a true minister of God: say what God says to say, do what God says to do, and be what God would have one to be. Balaam fell miserably short when it came to this third virtue to be. Here is how we know. THE MATTER AT PEOR Later on in Numbers 31, we read where God told Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites for the sons of Israel. He had sent his captains and warriors from every tribe and the priests with the holy vessels and the trumpets of alarm. They killed every male and the kings of Midian. They burned the cities and took the spoil, but they captured the women and brought them back with them.

  41. Moses and others went out to meet his returning army and saw what they had done. He was angry with the officers and asked them why they had spared the women. It would seem like the noble thing to do, would it not? Moses explained his anger in verse 16: "Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor." So, what happened at Peor and what did Balaam have to do with that? Apparently everything! We see in Numbers 25 that Israel played the harlot with the daughters of Moab: "They called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel." Num. 25:2-3. Remember, God had made it emphatically clear that the Israelites were not to mingle with the people of the land. Deut. 7:1-6. No reference is made whatsoever to Balaam in Numbers 25, but Numbers 31:16 informs us that this "sin" at Peor was due to the counsel of Balaam. In Numbers 22-24 we read how Balak offered both money and prestige to Balaam to get him Moses and others went out to meet his returning army and saw what they had done. He was angry with the officers and asked them why they had spared the women. It would seem like the noble thing to do, would it not? Moses explained his anger in verse 16: "Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor." So, what happened at Peor and what did Balaam have to do with that? Apparently everything! We see in Numbers 25 that Israel played the harlot with the daughters of Moab: "They called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel." Num. 25:2-3. Remember, God had made it emphatically clear that the Israelites were not to mingle with the people of the land. Deut. 7:1-6. No reference is made whatsoever to Balaam in Numbers 25, but Numbers 31:16 informs us that this "sin" at Peor was due to the counsel of Balaam. In Numbers 22-24 we read how Balak offered both money and prestige to Balaam to get him

  42. to pronounce a curse against the Israelites. Balaam was not about to miss his opportunity for fortune and prominence. Balaam must have known about this ban that God had set forth as recorded in Deuteronomy 7 and used it to defeat the Israelites. He "taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication." Rev. 2:13. In other words, Balaam counseled Balak to entice the Israelite sons and daughters to mix with the sons and daughters of Moab. This way, Balaam did not have to speak the curse, but he ensured that Israel would place themselves under a curse. Israel did just that. They played the harlot and brought the curse of a plague upon themselves that killed twenty-four thousand of their own. Num. 25:9. Balaam collected his blood money and prepared to live lavishly among the kings of Midian. His life, however, was short-lived after that. Numbers 31:8 tells us that he was killed with the sword when Israel took vengeance on the Midianites. He was a false prophet. He was bound to say what God wanted him to say. He was forced even by his jackass

  43. (donkey) to do what God wanted, but it was not in him to be what God would have him to be. He was greedy and sought to increase himself in power, position, riches, and domination. He put Himself above the concerns of God and God's people. We are much like Balaam when we ask God to bless our flesh rather than denying our flesh to obey God. BALAAM'S NAME AND REPUTATION Another connection between Balaam and the Nicolaitans is embedded in his name. Balaam's name is the combination of two words from the Hebrew: beli and haam. Beli means "conqueror" and, haam means "the people." Put them together and we get "conqueror of the people." Balaam's name, therefore, translates the same as Nicolaitan. Is this not strong evidence that the reference to Balaam is the antecedent of the phrase "in the same way"? Balaam is also mentioned in 2 Peter 2:15 in the context of false teachers. The false teachers were those "who have forsaken the right way, and have gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of

  44. unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet." He is mentioned with disdain in Jude, verse 11: "Woe to them," Jude writes, "for they...ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward." These three New Testament witnesses against Balaam are harsh to say the least. Each of them speak of greed. Nicolaitans cause God's people to commit spiritual fornication by joining them to their idolatrous church systems. SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT Having looked into who Balaam was, we come back to our original question: Who, then, were the Nicolaitans? They were leaders within the Christian community who were false prophets "in the same way" as was Balaam. They were ministers among the assembly of called-out-ones who were motivated by greed and self-aggrandizement--the need to increase themselves in power, position, riches, and domination. They had managed to exalt themselves in

  45. leadership roles above those "common" called-out-ones. The New Testament mentions Diotrephes, who possessed this Nicolaitan spirit. The end of the first century A.D. was nearing when the aged apostle John wrote his third epistle. He wrote to the well beloved Gaius and addressed his grief over one who was known as Diotrephes. It appears from the letter that Diotrephes had positioned himself in an uncommon place of authority among an assembly of called-out-ones. He loved to have preeminence among them. 3 John 1:9. He not only refused to welcome the apostle John and others of the brethren, but removed from the assembly those who did dare to welcome them. 3 John 1:10-11. The desire for preeminence is a characteristic of the Nicolaitan spirit. Nicolaitans are those who seek to elevate themselves above the so-called laity. I say they are "so-called" because no such distinctions are made in the New Testament between professional clergy and laity. Such distinctions smack insults at the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The clerical exercise of such authority over the called-out-ones sprang up throughout all Christendom soon

  46. after the turn of the first century. This reference to Diotrephes in 3 John is clear evidence that it had already taken root. Nicolaitans are like goats. They like high places. THE RISE OF BISHOPS This Nicolaitan spirit is deceptive and deadly. It is deeply entrenched in most of the men and women who have been trained and nurtured to minister in the church system. Nicolaitan personalities have ruled in the churches since the first century A.D. In spite of those exceptions like Diotrephes, simplicity seemed to have characterized the life of the called-out-ones that we know about from the New Testament until after the death of John. Little is known about the activities of the called-out-ones for those few years between the death of John and the turn of the century. When the pages of church history began to flip again into the beginning of the second century, an interesting thing had occurred. Certain ones bore the title of bishop, such as

  47. Polycarp of Smyrna, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polybius of Tralles, and Onesimus of Ephesus. These were godly men, defenders of the faith, some of whom were martyrs for Jesus, but were nonetheless caught up in the power and position of the bishopric. Justo Gonzalez points out in his Story of Christianity that James, the brother of Jesus, was erroneously given the title of "bishop" of Jerusalem by church leaders in later years. 3 {17} Gonzalez explains that "the emphasis on the authority of bishops and on apostolic succession was a part of the response of the church to the challenge of heresies in the late second and early third centuries. As the church became increasingly Gentile, the danger of heresies was greater, and this in turn led to a greater stress on episcopal [bishop] authority." 3 {18} By the time of the monastic movement in the late third and early fourth centuries, bishops lived in great cities and enjoyed great power and prestige. Moreover, the bishopric had become an office to be filled rather than a calling by God upon a man. The story is told of a man named Martin, born in

  48. 335 A.D., who lived the monastic life and was elected to the office of bishop of Tours by popular demand. Gonzalez wrote, "When the bishopric of Tours became vacant, the populace wanted to elect Martin to that position. The story goes that some of the bishops present at the election opposed such an idea, arguing that Martin was unusually dirty, dressed in rags, and disheveled, and that his election would damage the prestige of the office of bishop." 3 {19} This story tells us that the bishopric of Tours had become a position or office to which men could be elected. What was once a calling of God upon individual men has since become an institution of men. Many churches in the Presbyterian tradition have elected men, women, and young people as elders to fill a certain number of positions for limited terms. Where is any of this in the Bible? According to New Testament records, elders were appointed in every city and they existed in plurality. No man was given that responsibility alone. Elders were not called bishop nor pastor. They were elders who shepherded the flock of God among whom the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (which

  49. is the Greek word episcopous, also translated "bishop"). Acts 20:20 NKJV. The terms elder, shepherd, and overseer refer to the same person. Elder has to do with who they were. Shepherd has to do with what they did. Overseer has to do with how they did what they did. An elder is one who is called of God to perform a function in the body of Christ and was never intended to be a position, office, title, or institution in the Kingdom of God. This unscriptural "office" of bishop was the seedbed in which the hierarchical system of clergymen took root and flourished in the eventual rise of the Roman Catholic Church. The power of the office of bishop was such that simony became an issue in the church. Simony is the buying and selling of ecclesiastical (church) positions. Similarly, nobles, kings, and emperors were known to have appointed and investitured bishops and abbots in order to have political control of the church. The veneration that is bestowed upon popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests has to be most revolting to the Holy Spirit of God; especially that the Pope, a man, should be

  50. called, Holy Father. The word cardinal when used as an adjective means "of foremost importance; paramount." 3 {20} Jesus exhorted His followers regarding this need for veneration: "But you are not to be called Rabbi: for one is your Master, Christ; and all you are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither are you to be called masters: for one is your Master, Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." Matt. 23:8-12. In spite of the Reformation and other spiritual awakenings, the influence of the clergy system abounds in every denomination and independent church. Any challenge to a person's exalted position as "Pastor" (or whatever title they go by) are fighting words to most. Nevertheless, I boldly declare that the Nicolaitans today are all those who promote the clergy system, which separates the