Summary: Part 2 of Jesus’ message to the seven churches. This part looks at false doctrines that infiltrate the church, instructions, and the promise of rewards or consequences.
Several of the churches were condemned because they allowed false doctrines to pollute their own doctrine. Three specific false doctrines are mentioned in these two chapters. Lets examine them a little closer so that we can understand how this applies to us today.
The doctrine of Nicolaitans
To the church in Ephesus
6 "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
To the church in Pergamos
15 "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
The word Nicolaitans comes from a combination of Greek words but literally means ‘to rule over the laity’. God has never given permission for the church leaders to rule over the people. Most cults are born out of religious rule. Leaders get the power over the people by making themselves the intermediary between the people and God and make themselves the judge over who has salvation. Any student of the Bible can see the error of this. That is why almost all cults discourage their followers from studying the scriptures without ‘guidance’. I was recently given some literature from a cult that spelled out the dangers of reading scripture without a ‘study program’ to guide them. Their own words were, “Regardless of how sincere you are, the scriptures will be confusing and you will be mislead if you study outside our program”.
Jesus presented another plan for church leadership. Look at Matthew 20:
25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
26 "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27 "And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave --
28 "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
That is quite a different picture than we see in churches and religious groups that are not followers of God’s plan. A spiritual leader shows his qualifications by becoming the servant of others. A true leader leads by example not instruction alone. 1 Corinthians 11:1 gives the picture of true leadership in one phrase, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” God said that He hates the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. That is a strong warning. Any leader that attempts to control or rule over the people is in direct violation of God’s commands. That does not mean a church can’t set its standards, it means that the people, following scripture, submit themselves to the authority of God and then to each other. A true leader humbles himself to lead by serving Christ and others.
The doctrine of Balaam
14 “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.”
One thing you will find as you study the book of Revelation is that John draws heavily on the Old Testament. Many of the analogies are written with the assumption that the reader knows the Old Testament. It is written to the church and people who have become students of the scriptures. The doctrine of Balaam is a reference to the Old Testament as well. We first see Balaam in Numbers 22. Balaam was a prophet of God who was hired by Balak, king of the Moabites.
After Israel left Egypt and went into the Promised Land, they began to conquer the kingdoms that occupied the land. Balak was afraid of the people and recognized that God was blessing them. He knew that he could not conquer Israel, so he sent for the prophet Balaam and paid him to curse the people. He reasoned that if a prophet of God would curse the people, God would not fight for them. Three times Balak took Balaam to a peak that overlooked the people and asked him to curse the Israelites. Every time Balaam opened his mouth, God caused him to bless the people. Balak grew angry and said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies and you have bountifully blessed them. I would have greatly honored you, but the Lord has kept you back from honor”. Balaam wanted that honor and the riches promised him, but by his own confession, he was bound by what God put in his mouth to say. But he did find a compromise. He was afraid to speak on behalf of the Lord to curse, but he taught Balak how to make Israel curse themselves. He taught Balak that the people could be lured away from God by immorality. All Balak needed to do was send the most beautiful women of his kingdom to the men of Israel to defile them sexually and then draw them into idolatry. Balaam’s plan worked. The men pursued the lust of these women and were lured away from God and into idolatry.