The Gospel of the Revelation
according to St. John the Divine
St. John’s MCC • Session 8
|Church||“I know something good about you…”||“But I know something bad…”||“Therefore…”||Promise to the overcomer|
Questions to Ponder
Who is the one “who is, who was, and who is to come” in verses 4 and 8?
What time is about up? In other translations, John says, “The time is near.” What does he mean?
Who were the Nicolaitans? What did they believe and do that was so distasteful?
How could these communities have come to believe such things?
What themes are running through these letters to the churches?
Consider yourself. Is there a difference in what other people would say about your relationship to Jesus and what Jesus himself would say about it? Consider your local church in the same way. How is Jesus challenging you personally and us communally through this letter?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Nicolaitanes or Nicolaitans were a group of people mentioned twice in the book of Revelation in the New Testament. According to this reference, they were known in the cities of Ephesus and Pergamos around A.D. 99. The church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:6) is commended for “hating the deeds of the Nicolaitanes,” and the church of Pergamos is blamed for “having them who hold their doctrines” (15). There is no other first-hand evidence to give us certainty about the nature of this sect.
Several of the early church fathers, including Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and Theodoret mentioned this group. Irenaeus discusses them but adds nothing to the Apocalypse except that “they lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.” Tertullian refers to them, but apparently knows only what is found in St. John. Hippolytus of Rome based his narrative on Irenaeus, though he states that the deacon Nicholas was the author of the heresy and the sect (Philosph., VII, xxvi). Clement of Alexandria exonerates Nicholas, and attributes the doctrine of promiscuity, which the sect claimed to have derived from him, to a malicious distortion of words harmless in themselves. With the exception of the statement in Eusebius (H. E., III, xxix) that the sect was short-lived, none of the references in Epiphanius, Theodoret etc. deserve mention, as they are taken from Irenaeus.
The common statement, that the Nicolaitanes held the antinomian heresy of Corinth, seems not to have been proved. Another opinion, favored by a number of authors, is that, because of the allegorical character of the Apocalypse, the reference to the Nicolaitans is merely a symbolic manner of reference.
Scofield, in his Notes on the Bible, following dispensationalist thought, suggests that the Seven Letters in Revelation foretell the various eras of Christian history, and that “Nicolaitans” “refers to the earliest form of the notion of a priestly order, or ‘clergy,’ which later divided an equal brotherhood into ‘priests’ and ‘laity.’”
Barnes notes: “Vitringa supposes that the word is derived from νικος, victory, and λαος, people, and that thus it corresponds with the name Balaam, as meaning either lord of the people, or 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,
- that it is far-fetched, and is adopted only to remove a difficulty;
- that there is every reason to suppose that the word here used refers to a class of people who bore that name, and who were well known in the two churches specified;
- that, in Revelation 2:15, they are expressly distinguished from those who held the doctrine of Balaam, Revelation 2:14 - ‘So hast thou also (και) those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.’”