Revelation 2:6
But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds (better, works) of the Nicolaitanes.—The Nicolaitanes were, as has been expressed, the Antinomians of the Asiatic Church. The life and conduct were little thought of, and the faith professed was everything. Some have thought that they were a sect who derived their name, under some colourable pretext, from Nicolas the Proselyte; others hold that the name is purely symbolical, signifying “destroyer of the people,” and that it is no more than the Greek form of Balaam. (See Notes on Revelation 2:14-15, below.) The existence of a sect called Nicolaitanes in the second century is attested by Irenæus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.

Revelation 2:6. But — Or nevertheless; this thou hast — This honour and praise remaining; divine grace seeks whatever may help him that is fallen to recover his standing; that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes — A sect so called, it is thought, from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons mentioned Acts 6:5; according to ancient writers, their doctrine and their lives were equally corrupt. They allowed the practice of the most abominable lewdness and adulteries, as well as sacrificing to idols; all which they placed among things indifferent, and pleaded for as branches of Christian liberty.2:1-7 These churches were in such different states as to purity of doctrine and the power of godliness, that the words of Christ to them will always suit the cases of other churches, and professors. Christ knows and observes their state; though in heaven, yet he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is wrong in them, and what they want. The church of Ephesus is commended for diligence in duty. Christ keeps an account of every hour's work his servants do for him, and their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. But it is not enough that we are diligent; there must be bearing patience, and there must be waiting patience. And though we must show all meekness to all men, yet we must show just zeal against their sins. The sin Christ charged this church with, is, not the having left and forsaken the object of love, but having lost the fervent degree of it that at first appeared. Christ is displeased with his people, when he sees them grow remiss and cold toward him. Surely this mention in Scripture, of Christians forsaking their first love, reproves those who speak of it with carelessness, and thus try to excuse indifference and sloth in themselves and others; our Saviour considers this indifference as sinful. They must repent: they must be grieved and ashamed for their sinful declining, and humbly confess it in the sight of God. They must endeavour to recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as earnestly, and watch as diligently, as when they first set out in the ways of God. If the presence of Christ's grace and Spirit is slighted, we may expect the presence of his displeasure. Encouraging mention is made of what was good among them. Indifference as to truth and error, good and evil, may be called charity and meekness, but it is not so; and it is displeasing to Christ. The Christian life is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. We must never yield to our spiritual enemies, and then we shall have a glorious triumph and reward. All who persevere, shall derive from Christ, as the Tree of life, perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness, not in the earthly paradise, but in the heavenly. This is a figurative expression, taken from the account of the garden of Eden, denoting the pure, satisfactory, and eternal joys of heaven; and the looking forward to them in this world, by faith, communion with Christ, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. Believers, take your wrestling life here, and expect and look for a quiet life hereafter; but not till then: the word of God never promises quietness and complete freedom from conflict here.But this thou hast - This thou hast that I approve of, or that I can commend.

That thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans - Greek, "works" (τὰ ἔργα ta erga). The word "Nicolaitanes" occurs only in this place, and in the Revelation 2:15 verse of this chapter. From the reference in the latter place it is clear that the doctrines which they held prevailed at Pergamos as well as at Ephesus; but from neither place can anything now be inferred in regard to the nature of their doctrines or their practices, unless it be supposed that they held the same doctrine that was taught by Balaam. See the notes on Revelation 2:15. From the two passages, compared with each other, it would seem that they were alike corrupt in doctrine and in practice, for in the passage before us their deeds are mentioned, and in Revelation 2:15 their doctrine. Various conjectures, however, have been formed respecting this class of people, and the reasons why the name was given to them:

I. In regard to the origin of the name, there have been three opinions:

(1) That mentioned by Irenaeus, and by some of the other fathers, that the name was derived from Nicolas, one of the deacons ordained at Antioch, Acts 6:5. Of those who have held this opinion, some have supposed that it was given to them because he became apostate and was the founder of the sect, and others because they assumed his name, in order to give the greater credit to their doctrine. But neither of these suppositions rests on any certain evidence, and beth are destitute of probability. There is no proof whatever that Nicolas the deacon ever apostatized from the faith, and became the founder of a sect; and if a name had been assumed, in order to give credit to a sect and extend its influence, it is much more probable that the name of an apostle would have been chosen, or of some other prominent man, than the name of an obscure deacon of Antioch.

(2) Vitringa, and most commentators since his time, have supposed that the name Nicolaitanes was intended to be symbolical, and was not designed to designate any sect of people, but to denote those who resembled Balaam, and that this word is used in the same manner as the word "Jezebel" in Revelation 2:20, which is supposed to be symbolical there. Vitringa supposes that the word is derived from νίκος nikos, "victory," and λαός laos, "people," and that thus it corresponds with the name Balaam, as meaning either בּצל צם bàal ̀am, "lord of the people," or בּלץ צם baalà ̀am, "he destroyed the people"; and that, as the same effect was produced by their doctrines as by those of Balaam, that the people were led to commit fornication and to join in idolatrous worship, they might be called "Balaamites" or "Nicolaitanes," that is, corrupters of the people. But to this it may be replied:

(a) that it is far-fetched, and is adopted only to remove a difficulty;

(b) that there is every reason to suppose that the word used here refers to a class of people who bore that name, and who were well known in the two churches specified;

(c) that in Revelation 2:15 they are expressly distinguished from those who held the doctrine of Balaam, Revelation 2:14, "So hast thou also (καὶ kai) those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes."

(3) it has been supposed that some person now unknown, probably of the name Nicolas, or Nicolaus, was their leader, and laid the foundation of the sect. This is by far the most probable opinion, and to this there can be no objection. It is in accordance with what usually occurs in regard to sects, orthodox or heretical, that they derive their origin from some person whose name they continue to bear; and as there is no evidence that this sect prevailed extensively, or was indeed known beyond the limits of these churches, and as it soon disappeared, it is easily accounted for that the character and history of the founder were so soon forgotten.

II. In regard to the opinions which they held, there is as little certainty. Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres. i., 26) says that their characteristic tenets were the lawfulness of promiscuous sexual intercourse with women, and of eating things offered to idols. Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 3. 29) states substantially the same thing, and refers to a tradition respecting Nicolaus, that he had a beautiful wife, and was jealous of her, and being reproached with this, renounced all intercourse with her, and made use of an expression which was misunderstood, as implying that illicit pleasure was proper. Tertullian speaks of the Nicolaitanes as a branch of the Gnostic family, and as, in his time, extinct. Mosheim (De Rebus Christian Ante. Con. section 69) says that "the questions about the Nicolaitanes have difficulties which cannot be solved." Neander (History of the Christian Religion, as translated by Torrey, vol. i, pp. 452, 453) numbers them with Antinomians; though he expresses some doubt whether the actual existence of such a sect can be proved, and rather inclines to an opinion noticed above, that the name is symbolical, and that it is used in a mystical sense, according to the usual style of the Book of Revelation, to denote corrupters or seducers of the people, like Balaam. He supposes that the passage relates simply to a class of persons who were in the practice of seducing Christians to participate in the sacrificial feasts of the pagans, and in the excesses which attended them - just as the Jews were led astray of old by the Moabites, Numbers 25.

What was the origin of the name, however, Neander does not profess to be able to determine, but suggests that it was the custom of such sects to attach themselves to some celebrated name of antiquity, in the choice of which they were often determined by circumstances quite accidental. He supposes also that the sect may have possessed a life of Nicolas of Antioch, drawn up by themselves or others from fabulous accounts and traditions, in which what had been imputed to Nicolas was embodied. Everything, however, in regard to the origin of this sect, and the reason of the name given to it, and the opinions which they held, is involved in great obscurity, and there is no hope of throwing light on the subject. It is generally agreed, among the writers of antiquity who have mentioned them, that they were distinguished for holding opinions which countenanced gross social indulgences. This is all that is really necessary to be known in regard to the passage before us, for this will explain the strong language of aversion and condemnation used by the Saviour respecting the sect in the epistles to the Churches of Ephesus and Pergamos.

Which I also hate - If the view above taken of the opinions and practices of this people is correct, the reasons why he hated them are obvious. Nothing can be more opposed to the personal character of the Saviour, or to his religion, than such doctrines and deeds.

6. But—How graciously, after necessary censure, He returns to praise for our consolation, and as an example to us, that we would show, when we reprove, we have more pleasure in praising than in fault-finding.

hatest the deeds—We should hate men's evil deeds, not hate the men themselves.

Nicolaitanes—Irenæus [Against Heresies, 1.26.3] and Tertullian [Prescription against Heretics, 46] make these followers of Nicolas, one of the seven (honorably mentioned, Ac 6:3, 5). They (Clement of Alexandria [Miscellanies, 2.20 3.4] and Epiphanius [Heresies, 25]) evidently confound the latter Gnostic Nicolaitanes, or followers of one Nicolaos, with those of Revelation. Michaelis' view is probable: Nicolaos (conqueror of the people) is the Greek version of Balaam, from Hebrew "Belang Am," "Destroyer of the people." Revelation abounds in such duplicate Hebrew and Greek names: as Apollyon, Abaddon: Devil, Satan: Yea (Greek, "Nai"), Amen. The name, like other names, Egypt, Babylon, Sodom, is symbolic. Compare Re 2:14, 15, which shows the true sense of Nicolaitanes; they are not a sect, but professing Christians who, like Balaam of old. tried to introduce into the Church a false freedom, that is, licentiousness; this was a reaction in the opposite direction from Judaism, the first danger to the Church combated in the council of Jerusalem, and by Paul in the Epistle to Galatians. These symbolical Nicolaitanes, or followers of Balaam, abused Paul's doctrine of the grace of God into a plea for lasciviousness (2Pe 2:15, 16, 19; Jude 4, 11 who both describe the same sort of seducers as followers of Balaam). The difficulty that they should appropriate a name branded with infamy in Scripture is met by Trench: The Antinomian Gnostics were so opposed to John as a Judaizing apostle that they would assume as a name of chiefest honor one which John branded with dishonor.

But this thou hast; thou hast yet thus much to commend thee.

That thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes; thou hatest the deeds of those who teach the lawfulness of a common use of wives, and eat things offered to idols; for these, they say, were the tenets of the Nicolaitanes, so called from one Nicholas; but whether he were one of the first deacons, named Acts 6:5, (who, they say, to avoid the imputation of jealousy, brought forth his wife, being a beautiful woman, and prostituted her), or from some other of that name, I cannot determine.

Which I also hate: God, as a lover of his own order, and of human society, hateth such doctrines and practices as are contrary to the rule of his word, and tend to the confusion of human societies. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans,.... Though these Christians had left their first love, yet they bore an hatred to the filthy and impure practices of some men, who were called "Nicolaitans"; who committed fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness, and had their wives in common, and also ate things offered to idols; who were so called, as some think (c), from Nicolas of Antioch, one of the seven deacons in Acts 6:5; though as to Nicolas himself, it is said (d), that he lived with his own lawful married wife, and no other, and that his daughters continued virgins all their days, and his son incorrupt; and that these men, so called, only shrouded themselves under his name, and abused a saying or action of his, or both, to patronize their wicked deeds: he had used to advise , by which he meant a restraining of all carnal and unlawful lusts; but these men interpreted it of an indulgence in them, and so gave themselves up to all uncleanness; and whereas, he having a beautiful wife, and being charged with jealousy, in order to clear himself of it, he brought her forth, and gave free liberty to any person to marry her as would; which indiscreet action of his these men chose to understand as allowing of community of wives. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, that these Nicolaitans were not called so from any man, but from the word "Nicolah", "let us eat", which they often used to encourage each other to eat things offered to idols. However this be, it is certain that there were such a set of men, whose deeds were hateful; but neither their principles nor their practices obtained much in this period of time, though they afterwards did; see Revelation 2:15. Professors of the Christian religion in general abhorred such impure notions and deeds, as they were by Christ:

which also I hate; all sin is hateful to Christ, being contrary to his nature, to his will, and to his Gospel; and whatever is hateful to him should be to his people; and where grace is, sin will be hateful, both in themselves and others; and men's deeds may be hated when their persons are not; and hatred of sin is taken notice of by Christ, with a commendation,

(c) Vid. Irenaeum adv. Haeres, l. 1. c. 27. & Tertull. de Praescript. Haeret. c. 46, 47. (d) Clement. Alex. Strom. l. 3. p. 436. & Euseb, Hist. Eccl. l. 2. c. 29.

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 2:6. Not for the purpose of alleviating the pain of the church concerning the reproof of Revelation 2:4,[968] but because the Lord’s love for his church gladly recognizes what is to be properly acknowledged, and once more, but in a new and more definite way, makes prominent in opposition to Revelation 2:4 sqq. (ἈΛΛΆ) the one point of commendation already in Revelation 2:2. Just because the church was rejected for no longer having the first love to their Lord, is it once more expressly acknowledged that it is still so far of one mind with him, as to hate the wicked works which he hates. Thus Revelation 2:6 has enough that is peculiar, as not to appear a mere repetition of Revelation 2:2, and contains no marks whatever whereby Revelation 2:2-3, are to be understood in the sense of Hengstenberg.

With τοῦτο ἔχ. neither ἈΓΑΘΌΝ, nor the like, is used to complete the construction: the explanation of the ΤΟῦΤΟ in ὌΤΙ ΜΙΣ., Κ.Τ.Λ., shows that the common possession is commendable.

The ΜΙΣΕῖς is not “a strong expression for censuring,”[969] but is just as earnestly meant as the ΜΙΣῶ.[970] But it is justly remarked already by N. de Lyra,[971] that the hatred is directed not against the persons, but against the works.[972]

Concerning the Nicolaitans,[973] as well concerning their name as also their conduct, it is possible to judge only by a comparison with Revelation 2:14 sqq. Irenaeus,[974] Hippolyt.,[975] Tertullian,[976] Clemens Alex.,[977] Jerome,[978] Augustine,[979] and other Church Fathers derive the sect from a founder Nicolaus, and that, too, the deacon mentioned in Acts 6:5, of whom they have more to relate as they are more remote from him in time. That this is derived entirely from this passage, and is of no more importance than that according to which the Ebionites are represented as springing from a certain Ebion,[980] is shown, first, from the fluctuation of the tradition which also knew how to defend that church officer, so highly commended in Acts, from the disgrace of having founded a troublesome sect,[981] and, secondly, from the circumstance that the patristic tradition, from the very beginning, refers to Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:14 sqq. Nicolaus of Acts 6 was thought of because none other of that name was known.[982] Since Chr. A. Heumann,[983] and J. W. Janus,[984] the opinion has become almost universal, that the designation Νικολαἰται (from ΝΙΚᾶΝ and ΛΑΌς) suggests the Hebrew name Balaam (from בֶלַע and עָם, i.e., swallowing-up, or destruction, of the people), whereby the Balaamite nature of those Nicolaitanes is to be indicated. To this Revelation 2:14-15, refer.[985] Yet it cannot be positively decided whether John found the word used already in this sense, or was himself the first to frame it. A comparison may be made with the name Armillus given to antichrist,[986] i.e., ἘΡΗΜΌΛΑΟς.[987]

The Nicolaitans are of course not identical[988] with the ΚΑΚΟΊ mentioned in Revelation 2:2, since the latter expression is very general: yet, at all events, they belong to “them which are evil;” and the idea, which in itself is highly improbable, must not be inferred,[989] that in Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:6, two entirely different kinds of false teachers are meant, of whom the former may be regarded disciples of John,[990] or Jewish teachers,[991] or strict Jewish Christians,[992] while the Nicolaitans, who, according to De Wette, etc., are again distinct from Balaamites,[993] as those of a more heathen tendency, viz., false teachers who surrendered themselves[994] to a false freedom.[995] Tertullian and other Church fathers, N. de Lyra, and the older expositors, connect the Nicolaitans with the Gnostics; Hengstenb. also regards them identical with the deniers of the Son, in the Epistles of John, by referring the warning in John 5:21[996] to the ethnicizing ways of the false teachers there antagonized. But for all this, there is no foundation. What especially contradicts Hengstenberg’s conjecture is the fact that the (Gnostic) false teachers of the Epistles of John are attacked just as decidedly because of their false doctrines, as the Nicolaitans of the Apoc. because of their evil deeds.[997] That the aberrations are practical, which even Hengstenb. emphasizes, but without ground alleges also of the false teachers in 1 John, is shown already by Revelation 2:2 (ΚΑΚΟΎς). We shall therefore have to think of the Nicolaitans as ethnicizing libertines.[998] This is not contradicted by the fact that they assumed apostolic authority; for if they possibly professed to vindicate their Christian freedom in the Pauline sense, they might likewise wish to be apostles like Paul.[999] [See Note XXIX., p. 155.]

[968] Grot., Hengstenb.

[969] De Wette.

[970] Cf. on Revelation 2:2.

[971] Cf. also Hengstenb., etc.

[972] Cf. Revelation 2:14. Incorrectly, Calov.: “dogmas.”

[973] Cf. Gieseler’s Kirchengeschichte, i. 1, sec. 29; Winer, Rwb.; literature in Wolf.

[974] Haer., i. 26.

[975] Ref. Omn. Haer., ed. Gott., 1859, p. 408.

[976] Praescr. Haer., 46.

[977] Strom., ii. 20, p. 490; iii. 4, p. 522.

[978] Adv. Lucifer, 23.

[979] Haer., 5.

[980] Cf. Tertullian, l. c. 33.

[981] Cf. Clemens Alex.

[982] Against Ebrard and Klief., who, as well as Grot., Calov., and the older and Catholic expositors in general, hold to the patristic statement.

[983] Act. Erud. Ann., 1712, p. 179; Poecile, ii. 392.

[984] De Nicol. ex Haeret. Catalogo Expungendis. Viteb., 1723. Cf. Vitr., Wetst., Eichh., Herder, Heinrichs, who, however, is inclined to affirm that there was at Ephesus a Nicolaus. Cf. also Ewald, Gesch., Jer., vii. 172 sqq., Züllig, Hengstenb., etc.

[985] Cf., on the other hand, De Wette.

[986] Cf. Commentary on 1 John 2:18.

[987] K. Wieseler, Chronol. d. apost. Zeitalt., p. 263 sqq

[988] Hengstenb.

[989] Ewald.

[990] Eichh.

[991] Züll.

[992] Ewald.

[993] See on Revelation 2:14-15.

[994] Ewald.

[995] Cf. Revelation 2:14 with Acts 15:29.

[996] Which, however, is not “directed against heathenism clothed in a Christian garb.”

[997] Cf. Revelation 2:14; Revelation 2:20.

[998] Cf. also A. Ritschl, Entst. d. Altkath. K. Bonn, 1857, p. 134 sq.

[999] According to Volkm., the strict Judæo-Christian author of the Apoc. had in mind the Apostle to the Gentiles and his adherents. Cf. also Hilgenfeld, Kanon, p. 228. Cf. Introduction, sec. 2, note.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XXIX. Revelation 2:6. τῶν Νικολαϊτῶν

The argument in the long and thorough discussion in Gebhardt (pp. 206–216) is to prove the distinction between the Nicolaitans and those errorists mentioned in Revelation 2:2, “them which say they are apostles,” etc., referring to Judaizing teachers, the conflict with whom is now in the background, while, with Dust., he regards the Nicolaitans as ethnicizing teachers of an Antinomian type. He traces the two classes, as prophesied already by St. Paul in his charge to the elders of Ephesus, Revelation 2:6. The message ends with a tardy echo of 2 b. The prophet admits that one redeeming feature in the church is the detestation of the N. Not all the spirit of animosity at Ephesus is amiss. When directed, as moral antipathy, against these detestable Nikolaitans (corresponding to the Greek quality of μισοπονηρία), it is a healthy feature of their Christian consciousness. The Nikolaitans have been identified by patristic tradition, from Irenæus downwards, with the followers of the proselyte Nikolaos (Acts 6:5, where see note), who is alleged, especially by Tertullian and Epiphanius, to have lapsed into antinomian license, as the result of an overstrained asceticism, and to have given his name to a sect which practised religious sensuality in the days before Cerinthus. The tenets of the latter are in fact declared by Irenæus to have been anticipated by the Nicolaitans, who represented the spirit of libertinism which, like the opposite extreme of legalism at an earlier period, threatened the church’s moral health. But if the comment of Vict. were reliable, that the N[899] principle was merely ut delibatum exorcizaretur et manducari posset et ut quicumque fornicatus esset octauo die pacem acciperet, the representation of John would become vigorously polemical rather than historically accurate. The tradition of the N[900]’s origin may of course be simply due to the play of later imagination upon the present narrative taken with the isolated reference to Nikolaos in Acts 6:6. On the other hand it was not in the interest of later tradition to propagate ideas derogatory to the character of an apostolic Christian; indeed, as early as Clem. Alex. (Strom. ii. 20, iii. 4; cf. Constit. Ap. vi. 8), a disposition (shared by Vict.) to clear his character is evident. Whatever was the precise relation of the sect to Nikolaos, whether some tenet of his was exploited immorally or whether he was himself a dangerously lax teacher, there is no reason to doubt the original connexion of the party with him. Its accommodating principles are luminously indicated by the comment of Hippolytus (ἐδίδασκεν ἀδιαφορίαν βίου) and the phrase attributed to him by Clem. Alex, (παραχρήσασθαι τῇ σαρκὶ δεῖ), a hint which is confirmed, if the Nikolaitans here and in Revelation 2:15 are identified with the Balaamites (νικο-λαος, in popular etymology, a rough Greek equivalent for בלע עם, perdidit uel absorpsit populum). This symbolic interpretation has prevailed from the beginning of the eighteenth century (so Ewald, Hengstenberg, Düst., Schürer, Julicher, Bousset). The original party-name was probably interpreted by opponents in this derogatory sense. It was thus turned into a covert censure upon men who were either positively immoral or liberally indifferent to scruples (on food, clubs, marriage, and the like) which this puritan prophet regarded as vital to the preservation of genuine Christianity in a pagan city. A contemporary parallel of moral laxity is quoted by Derenbourg, Hist, de la Palestine (1867), p. 363. If Nikolaos was really an ascetic himself, the abuse of his principles is quite intelligible, as well as their popularity with people of inferior character. Pushed to an extreme, asceticism confines ethical perfection to the spirit. As the flesh has no part in the divine life, it may be regarded either as a foe to be constantly thwarted or as something morally indifferent. In the latter case, the practical inference of sensual indulgence is obvious, the argument being that the lofty spirit cannot be soiled by such indulgence any more than the sun is polluted by shining on a dunghill.

[899]. cod. Purpureus. 6th century (fragments of all the Gospels).

[900]. cod. Purpureus. 6th century (fragments of all the Gospels).6. But this thou hast] This is one point in which thou art not wanting. Compare Revelation 2:25, Revelation 3:2; Revelation 3:11, where faithfulness is conceived as a treasure possessed and to be guarded.

thou hatest the deeds] Compatible with love to the persons: cf. St Jude 23.

Nicolaitans] See Excursus II.Verse 6. - They are again commended for their good points. But it is possible to hate what Christ hates without loving what he loves. It is possible to hate false doctrine and lawlessness, and yet be formal and dead one's self. Who the Nicolaitans were we cannot now determine with certainty. The name Nicolaus may be intended as a Greek equivalent of Balaam, but this is by no means certain. Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria write as if the sect of Nicolaitans existed in their day. A common belief was that their founder was Nicolaus of Antioch, one of the seven deacons. Irenaeus (1:26), followed by Hippolytus ('Refut.,' 7:24), supports this view; Ignatius ('Trall.,' 9) and the Apostolic Constitutions (6:8), are against it. The Nicolaitans may have claimed him as their founder, or similarity of name may have caused confusion with a different person. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, and that of Balaam (ver. 14), and that of the woman Jezebel (ver. 20), seem to have this much in common - a contention that the freedom of the Christian placed him above the moral Law. Neither idolatry nor sensuality could harm those who had been made free by Christ. The moral enactments of the Law had been abrogated by the gospel, no less than the ceremonial. The special mention of "the pollutions of idols" and "fornication," in the decrees of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:20, 29), seems to show that this pernicious doctrine was already in existence in A.D. . In 2 Peter 2 and Jude 1:7-13 a similar evil is denounced. It appears in other heretical sects, especially those of Gnostic origin, e.g. Cerinthians, Cainites, Carpocratians. In this way we may explain the statement of Eusebius ('Hist. Eccl.,' 3:29), that the Nieelaitan heresy lasted only for a short time; i.e. its religious libertinism did not die out, but passed over into other sects. Note that it is "the works of the Nicolaitans," not the men themselves, that Christ hates. He loves the sinner, while he hates the sin. "It would have been well with the Church had this always been remembered" (Alford). The Nicolaitans

From νικᾶν to conquer, and λαός the people. There are two principal explanations of the term. The first and better one historical. A sect springing, according to credible tradition, from Nicholas a proselyte of Antioch, one of the seven deacons of Jerusalem (Acts 6:5), who apostatized from the truth, and became the founder of an Antinomian Gnostic sect. They appear to have been characterized by sensuality, seducing Christians to participate in the idolatrous feasts of pagans, and to unchastity. Hence they are denoted by the names of Balaam and Jezebel, two leading agents of moral contamination under the Old Testament dispensation. Balaam enticed the Israelites, through the daughters of Moab and Midian, to idolatry and fornication (Numbers 25; Numbers 31:16). Jezebel murdered the Lord's prophets, and set up idolatry in Israel. The Nicolaitans taught that, in order to master sensuality, one must know the whole range of it by experience; and that he should therefore abandon himself without reserve to the lusts of the body, since they concerned only the body and did not touch the spirit. These heretics were hated and expelled by the Church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:6), but were tolerated by the Church of Pergamum (Revelation 2:15). The other view regards the name as symbolic, and Nicholas as the Greek rendering of Balaam, whose name signifies destroyer or corrupter of the people. This view is adopted by Trench ("Seven Churches"), who says: "The Nicolaitans are the Balaamites; no sect bearing the one name or the other; but those who, in the new dispensation, repeated the sin of Balaam in the old, and sought to overcome or destroy the people of God by the same temptations whereby Balaam had sought to overcome them before." The names, however, are by no means parallel: Conqueror of the people not being the same as corrupter of the people. Besides, in Revelation 2:14, the Balaamites are evidently distinguished from the Nicolaitans.

Alford remarks: "There is no sort of reason for interpreting the name otherwise than historically. It occurs in a passage indicating simple matters of historical fact, just as the name Antipas does in Revelation 2:13."

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