(2.6)    But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.


1.   Notice the sandwich psychology of the Lord Jesus. There is praise of this pastor, then rebuke, then praise. Not everything is wrong with this man’s life. He, at least, hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. But, my friends, what is wrong with the man will bring him down, unless it is dealt with.


2.   So, with commendation, rebuke, and then commendation, the Lord is making sure this man of God does not become discouraged, thinking the Lord does not appreciate his ministry. But at the same time, he now knows that there is a critical problem that must be taken care of . . . quickly.


3.   What are these deeds of the Nicolaitans, which are so hated by the Lord and by God’s man? There is no consensus among scholars, but the word is compounded from two Greek words. One word, the word laos, means “people.”[1] The other word, nikaw, means “prevail, overcome, conquer.”[2] If we are to guess what Nicolaitanism was from the construction of the word, then it was either the people ruling the congregation or the people of the assembly being ruled in an autocratic manner. Actually, both practices are condemned in God’s Word. In some assemblies God’s flock is lorded over, in violation of First Peter 5.3, while in other congregations the people run everything, in violation of First Timothy 5.17 and Hebrews 13.7 and 17. God wants His leaders to lead, not lord, and not be afraid to lead.


4.   The Roman Catholic Church is probably the greatest example of lording it over people, though it cannot be said that Catholics are the Lord’s people. But Catholics have no real say and no real Scriptural recourse against the wickedness of the priests. At the other end of the spectrum would be Southern Baptist and GARBC Churches, with their wicked and perverse system of deacon rule. Self-important deacons hamstring more good men of God than anyone realizes.  So long as the Southern Baptist Convention sticks to an unscriptural form of Church government that allows men not called by God to effectively occupy positions of spiritual leadership in bad Churches they don’t have a chance of surviving their slide toward apostasy.


5.   But what if the meaning of the term Nicolaitans cannot be properly derived from an analysis of the two words that combine to give us the term? Remember, “. . . there is no inherent meaning in a word. As Ullman has noted, dictionaries give us the impression that words carry abstract content by their very nature (1964:39). Yet in reality words are arbitrary symbols that have meaning only in a context.”[3]


6.   With this in mind, it might be more fruitful for us to take note that whatever the Nicolaitans were, their deeds were acts which the pastor of the Ephesian assembly hated. More important to discovering what kinds of deeds they were guilty of may be the Lord’s words concluding this verse: “which I also hate.


7.   Referring to the Hebrew Scriptures, what do we find that God hated?


Isaiah 61.8:  “For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.”


Jeremiah 44.4:  “Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.”


Amos 5.21:  “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.”


Zechariah 8.17:  “And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.”


8.   It is likely, then, that what the Lord Jesus Christ hates, if the Hebrew Scriptures are to be any guide to us, are deeds of abomination and impurity. After all, He is holy, is He not? And He shed His blood to wash away sins, did He not?


Psalm 139.21-22:  “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”


9.   After due consideration of this verse, though I am strongly opposed to deacons running a congregation, and am convinced that God is not pleased with such a congregational organization, that is not what is referred to in Revelation 2.6. Neither do I favor pastoral leadership by lordship. Either extreme is unscriptural. But the issue in this verse, in my opinion, does not directly bear on church polity.


10. I think this issue of Nicolaitanism had to do with a group who followed a man named Nicolas, which is how they got their name. “Clement of Alexander says, ‘They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.’ Their teaching perverted grace and replaced liberty with license.”[4] Thus, what the Ephesian pastor hated, and what the Lord Jesus Christ also despised, was moral laxity and self-indulgence.


(2.7)    He 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.


1.   Though this letter was written to an individual, the plea is for the entire membership of the congregation to respond. If you overcome, the reward will be yours. But how do you know if you are an overcomer? In Christ, you are already an overcomer. What this verse is doing is pointing out the reality of unsaved members in the assembly.


2.   Turn to First John 5.4-5:


4     For 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?


Are you born of God? Then, according to God’s Word, you are an overcomer. Having received Christ, you have also received the victory that He won when He conquered sin, death, Hell and the grave, not to mention Satan.


3.   If you are not an overcomer you are lost. Sadly, there are so many congregations whose entire memberships are folks who are not overcomers that a completely defeated person fits right in. But God’s plan is not for defeated people to fit right in. He wants defeated people to stick out like sore thumbs. Not to stick out as someone to be despised, but to stick out as a precious soul in need of genuine salvation in Jesus Christ.


4.   Let us pray that God will continue to move in our midst and demonstrate His great power in our lives in such a way that lost people will be dealt with by the Holy Spirit, using our testimonies and our soul winning efforts, and come to know Christ.


5.   In closing this letter to the angel of the church of Ephesus, consider again the last statement: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.


a.   There are times when passages in John’s Revelation are obviously symbolic in nature. There are other times in which what may seem to be symbolic is not symbolic at all. Such is the case here.


b.   My friends, there is nothing symbolic about “the tree of life.” Neither is there anything symbolic about “the paradise of God.” Both are absolutely and positively real.


c.   “The tree of life” is referred to three different times in Genesis chapters two and three as a real tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden.  “The tree of life” is also mentioned three times in the book of the Revelation, chapters two and twenty-two. And in none of those six places is there any indication that “the tree of life” is not a real tree that bears real fruit.


d.   In like manner, “paradise” is referred to three times in the New Testament, in Luke, in Second Corinthians, and in the Revelation. In none of those places is “paradise” purported to be anything other than a literal place, the place where the redeemed of God go after they die.


e.   What are we to make of these non-symbolical references? We are to understand that when real believers overcome, when they persevere to the end, they really will be allowed to “eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” That will be real eating of real fruit in the real heaven.

[1]  Bauer, pages 586-587.

[2]  Ibid., page 673.

[3]  Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 816.

[4]  See footnote for Revelation 2.6, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1994.

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