The First Church Age
The Time Period - 50 AD to 170 AD.
The Messenger - St. Paul
The Bible Reference - Revelation 2: 1-7
Ephesus - The City
The Message To The First Age
Being the "first" Church Age one can easily fix the time period as beginning in the first century and lapping well into the second century. According to the Bible, the Apostle Paul founded the church at Ephesus about the middle of the first century. With the Bible, history and Divine guidance the end-time Prophet fixed the duration of the first Age as beginning at about 53 AD and ending in 170 AD.
THE MESSENGER: Paul - The Apostle
That he was the messenger to the first age of the Gentile era cannot be denied. Though to Peter was granted the authority to open the doors to the Gentiles, it was given to Paul to be their apostle and prophet. He was the Prophet-Messenger to the Gentiles. His prophetic office, by which he received the full revelation of the Word for the Gentiles, authenticated him as their apostolic mmessenger. To this agreed the other apostles at Jerusalem.
Paul's Calling And Ministry To The Gentiles
Paul's manner of ministering set the pattern that all future messengers were to aspire to, and actually sets the pattern for every true minister of God, though he would not attain to such height in the prophetic realm as did Paul. Paul's ministry had a three-fold quality and was as follows:
First of, this great Apostle was absolutely true to the Word. As these Scriptures prove, Paul's first love was the Word, never deviating from it no matter what the cost:
Note Also Galatians 2:3-5, 11-14
Notice that Paul was not governed by a denomination or any form of organized religion. He was absolutely Spirit-led, as when God moved upon Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Jerusalem's council never sent Paul out, nor did it have any power or jurisdiction over him. God, and God alone, did the sending and the leading. Paul was not of men, but of God.
Secondly, his ministry was in the power of the Spirit, thereby demonstrating the spoken and written Word.
Note Also Acts 20:9-12
Paul had been the means of bringing in multitudes of the Gentile sheep; he fed them, and cared for them, until they brought forth righteous fruit and were prepared to meet the Lord as a part of the Gentile bride.
At the time of the writing of the Book of Revelation, according to tradition, Paul had already died a martyr, but John was carrying on in his stead exactly as Paul had done in the days of his ministry. The death of Paul, before the Revelation was given, does not at all annul the fact that he was the messenger to the Ephesian Church Age, for the messenger to every age, regardless of when he appears or goes, is the one who influences that age for God by means of a Word-manifested ministry. Paul was that man.
THE BIBLE REFERENCE
The Prophetic Message To The Church At Ephesus
A close study of the Message to each of the Seven Churches show that the conditions which existed at the time in each of the seven local churches is prophetic, speaking of the "condition" which would prevailed throughout each Church Age. This will be shown as we expound each message, verse by verse.
EPHESUS - The City
Christianity Versus Paganism
To lead into the "Message" sent to the Gentile Christian Church at Ephesus we will first give some background information pertaining to the City of Ephesus itself and the predominate pagan religion practiced there. This will help us to better understand the content of the Message - in it's local and prophetic application.
The beautiful city of Ephesus was one of the three greatest cities of Asia. It was often called the third city of Christian faith, with Jerusalem first, and Antioch second. It was a very rich city. The government was Roman but the language was Greek. Historians believe that John, Mary, Peter, Andrew and Philip were all buried in this city. Paul, who founded the true faith in this city, pastored here only about three years; Timothy was its first bishop. Being the Messenger to the Age Paul instructed Timothy as follows:
The name, Ephesus, has a strange compound meaning, "Aimed at", and "Relaxed." These two words express clearly what happened in the local Ephesian church and prevailed throughout the Ephesian Church Age. Under the influence of the Revealed Word and Word teachings of the Messenger, Paul, the Saints "aimed" high in the fullness of the Spirit, experiencing "the depth and high calling of God". As the Age progressed and anti-Word influences increased the Saints began to give way to a less watchful attitude.
A lessening of zeal in following after Jesus Christ began to manifest itself as an omen that in the future ages the physical vehicle called the church would sink to the awfulness of the "depth of Satan." The local Church and the attitude of the Church through the Age had become relaxed and was drifting. Already the age was backsliding. It had left its first love. The enemy had, in this first age of the church, sown anti-Word "seeds" which would in future ages (the Dark Ages) bringing physical death to millions of God's children. Coming to maturity in the Seventh and last Age, the fruit of the "seeds" sown in the Ephesian Age would bring spiritual death to untold millions of professing Christians.
The very religion of the city of Ephesus types out perfectly this first church age and sets the tenor of the ages to come. The Ephesians worshipped the goddess, Diana. Diana was to the Ephesians, what Astarte was to the Syrians; Venus to the Romans and Isis to the Egyptians - all different names for the same goddess who was worshipped as the "Queen of Heaven". This worship originated with Nimrod, his wife Semiramis, and their son.
With these three, the worship of a trinity of father, mother and son began. The mother, Semiramis was worshipped as "The Queen of Heaven". Ahab's wife Jezebel introduced into Israel the worship of Baal and Astarte, the "goddess of heaven". Hardly a nation escaped this spiritual pollution. In our study of these Church Ages we will see how it eventually infiltrated the church, establishing the "worship" of the virgin Mary. It is nothing less than the spirit of anti-christ moving the emphasis away from the Lord Jesus Christ to the false gods and goddesses of man-made religion.
It would take time for the spirit of anti-Christ to mix pagan ideas and theology with the New Borned Christian Church. But, already in this first age pagan influence was subtly infiltrating the Church of Christ. It will be shown in our verse by verse study that in this first age it took no shape so as not to alarm the people. The True Believers did recognize the anti-Word "deeds" of certain of the brethren, but never realized that those "deeds" would one day become a 'doctrine' among the people; and this anti-christ doctrine would become the law of an empire which would hold political and spiritual dominion over the people.
Before proceeding to study "The Message" to the Ephesian Age allow me to highlight a couple of other points regarding the pagan religion of Ephesus - the worship of Diana.
First of all, the priest of Diana were eunuchs - basically, a sterile priesthood - prophetic of the anti-Christ priesthood which would be introduced into Christianity by the false vine church, wherein their priests would be forbidden to marry. Above and beyond the "physical sterility" it reflected a spiritually sterile church which had drifted from their love for the Word of God and become unable to reproduce the Word in everyday living. They became entrenched in a "form of godliness", satisfied with religious ritual, ceremony and works. A "dead faith without Holy Ghost manifestations" would be the order of worship.
Secondly, a man, a high-priest was the overseer of all that pertained to the worship of the goddess Diana. He was a man of political power and public influence, portraying what was already in progress, though not too manifested as yet, in this First Age - that is, the church would soon be given over to human leadership. Void of Divine inspiration they would govern the church by human interpretations of the Will of God rather than the Revealed Word give by the Messenger of the Age. Any Holy Holy Ghost move among the people would be branded as fanaticism and persecuted unto death. This was represented by the pagan temple slaves who had no choice but obedience to the religious hierarchy.
All these things spoke of what was to come in greater manifestation in future ages of the Church. Man-made and man-appointed clergy, would, by political maneuvering and state help enslave the laity, making them servants to the creeds, dogmas and rituals of a church run by corrupt leaders, giving their power and glory over to the anti-Christ beast spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
Editor's Note: Let's keep in mind that the Message to each of the Seven Churches is from none other than our Lord Jesus Christ - the One John saw standing in the midst of the Seven Golden Candlesticks. At the beginning of the Message to each of the Seven Churches the Lord Jesus "identifies" Himself in His Position, His Power, His Authority, and His Glorious Attributes. BY the Word, IN the Word and THROUGH the Word, He clearly identifies Himself in all ages so that ALL are without excuse.
The Message To The Ephesian Age
Addressing the Messenger of the Ephesian Age, John begins as follows.....
The message of course isn't from John - he, himself is just the Scribe ordained to receive the Revelation and pass it on to the Church. The Message is from none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18). It is also said of Him that 'This Same Jesus is BOTH Lord and Christ.'(Acts 2:36). His authority, power and headship over the Church is highlighted in this Message to the First Age. He "holdeth the seven stars in His right hand". The right hand signifies the power and authority of God. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus declared "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
In that right hand of power are seven stars, who, according to Revelation 1:20, are the seven church messengers. Being in His "right Hand" first signifies HIS authority and control over His Messengers; and secondly, it signifies that the very power and authority of God are behind His Messengers to every age. He identifies with His Messengers, saying in John 13:20, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." It's important to recognize and receive those whom HE sends forth in the power of the Holy Ghost with His Word.
The Messengers are represented as "stars" in HIS right hand. They are "stars" because they reflect light, reflecting NOT their own light but His Light - the Revelation of Jesus Christ for the Age in which they live. As natural starts reflect their light in the night, when darkness covers the earth, evenso the "star-messengers" in the right hand of Jesus Christ are ordained to reflect "The Light" in the spiritually dark night which falls upon the church. It is the night of the blackness of unbelief in the absolute authority of God's Word.
These "star-messengers" would fulfill, in their day, the "Great Commission" given by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19-20. They speak and act upon His authority.
The "Great Commission" is a threefold command: Go, Teach and Baptize:
GO - not just to the Jews but into all the nations - "even to all that are afar off (Gentiles), even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:38-39)
TEACH - not the "Doctrine of the Nicolaitanes" or the "Doctrine of Balaam", but "teach them to "OBSERVE ALL THINGS" whatsoever our Lord Jesus has commanded in His Word." Neither the "star-messengers", nor any other ministry is permitted to "add to" the Word, or "change, subtract or compromise" that which God has written and "forever settled in heaven" (Psalms 119:89).
THIRDLY, the "Great Commission" commands those whom God sends forth to "BAPTIZE" the believers, in water - not by sprinkling, etc, but by immersion, in the One NAME that is above every Name - baptize in the NAME [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost - the NAME being none other than The Lord Jesus Christ. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12 Stay with the Word - Always stay with the Word.
Not one believer of any age need cry in his heart, "Oh, that I might have been back there in the first age when the apostles were first sent out." There is NO need to look back. LOOK UP! The "star-messengers" of every Age points to the same One, even Him Who walks in the midst of the churches through all ages - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, and today, and forever. In the vision John saw Him "walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." According to Revelation 1:20 the candlesticks represent the Seven Churches.
Notice that Jesus is walking alone in the midst of His churches. He alone wrought her salvation, and having purchased her with His own blood He owns her. There is no pope with Him. There is no archbishop with Him. Mary, the mother of His earthly body, is not with Him. For the Bible plainly teaches, "For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;"1st. Timothy 2:5. It is His Life that is flowing and pulsating in the church, giving her life; and without Him there would be no life. He, Himself declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life:" John 14:6.
Alone, He trod the fierceness of the wrath of the fiery furnace. It was alone He prayed in dark Gethsemene; it was alone He stood in Pilate's Judgement Hall. It was alone He endured, for the Elect's sake, the shame and deep agony of the Cross. He felt so alone that in His final moments on the Cross He cried out in sorrow, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? ...[why art thou so] far from helping me, [and from] the words of my roaring?" Matthew 27:46, Psalms 22:1.
It wasn't the Pope, the Pastor, the General Overseer or the Church who hung upon the cross and gave His blood. It was Jesus, the Christ. The church didn't die for you - it was the Lord Jesus - the Author and Finisher of our faith - the Alpha and Omega of our salvation. We are espoused to Him and not another. We don't belong to the church. We belong to Him. His Word is Life to us. The church creeds, dogmas, by-laws and constitutions "make the word of none effect", blinding the people to what the Word of God actually teaches; and causing them to "worship God in vain". Matthew 15:6-9.
Praise Him, who alone "walketh in the midst of His Church". For He had planted it in His own likeness [the Word], therefore, He would water it [with His Word], and he would watch over it, lest unbelief defile or destroy it. Isaiah 27:3.
Without Christ in the midst of the church she is simply a religious society, a club, a meaningless gathering of the people. As a corpse bejeweled and dressed is still a corpse, so the church, no matter what her programs and her gracious efforts might achieve, without Christ she' just a corpse. But with Him in her midst, with Him motivating her, she becomes to the wonderment of all "His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."
As the literal "candlesticks" in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was made of pure gold, even so the true church of Jesus Christ, the bride, is likened to PURE gold. Her righteousness is HIS righteousness. Her attributes are HIS own glorious attributes. Her identity is found in Him. What He is, she is to reflect. What He has, she is to manifest.
But not only is the candlestick of gold, it is of BEATEN gold. Outside of her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, was ever a people so beaten and purged as the bride of Jesus Christ? Through the Ages she would fill up the sufferings that Christ has left behind. She would accounted as sheep for the slaughter - persecuted and killed all the day long. She suffers much, but in it all retaliates not, neither does she cause others to suffer. Worthy of the Gospel is this lovely bride of Christ. And as gold is malleable, this gold of God will bear her suffering for the Lord, not bowed, not broken, not destroyed, but formed as a thing of beauty and a joy forever by the trials and testings of this life.
Contiune Down TO Next Table.....
The Message To The Ephesian Age Continued.......
Jesus Praises His Own And Exposes False Apostles
After introducing Himself by describing some attribute of His Position, Character, Authority and Power, our Lord Jesus begins His exhortation to the Church in each Age with these words, "I know thy works". This is but a confirmation of what John, in his Gospel [John 2:25] said of Jesus: "And [He] needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." Being the Word from the Beginning (John 1:1-3), He is a "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart". [Hebrews 4:12].
Therefore, Jesus knows our works, whether they be good or evil - according to His Word or contrary to the Word. In each Church Age He acknowledges the works of the Church, acknowledging their suffering and expressing His care and concern for them. But He also takes full account of their spiritual attitudes and behavior - praising and commending them for their faithfulness and/or chastising and correcting them for areas wherein they were found to be compromising on the Word.
In this First Age He knows that there is weakness amongst them, but as yet He does not cry out against it. But in Love and mercy He encourages the Saints in continuing to follow after that which is righteous, and discourages them from giving in to the temptation to "go along" with Anti-Word teachings. Knowing the "works" of the church in this First Age Jesus knew that the "seeds" of anti-Word teaching were already being planted by false apostles.
The word, labour, signifies a weariness through oppression. This is an indication of another spirit at work in the Ephesian Age opposing the Spirit of Christ in His church. This opposing, anti-Christ spirit would, according to Daniel's prophecy, ".....speak [great] words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws:" [Daniel 7:25]. This first age suffered great persecution. The Saints were being "harassed" and "oppressed" by the Ant-Christ false Vine church. Jesus acknowledges their "labour" against it and their "patience" in dealing with it.
The early Church fathers had to deal with "false apostles" who were attempting to "excercise authority" OVER the people and preach things which didn't quite dovetail with the Scriptures. The above Scripture states that these "false apostles" [their claim to authority and their teaching] were "tried" [examined by the Word]; and they were found to be liars - deceiving the people. The Apostle John in his Third Epistle, verses 9 and 10 deals with such a spirit in one man named Diotrephes:
Paul, the Messenger to the Ephesian Age, also dealt with the arrogance of false teachers - interpreting the Message of the Messenger to justify or please themselves. In his espistle to Timothy Paul spoke of the profane, cankerous and erroneous teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus:
The seeds of the True Church had just begun to sprout and manifest itself when the "Tares" also began to make itself known among the "wheat" - according to the parable of Matthew 13:24-30. The "tares" had gained sufficient ground to become an hindrance and source of persecution, oppression and deception to the "wheat" Sons and Daughters of God.
Before continuing with the Message to the Ephesian Age lets consider the thought that God's people have always been and always will be persecuted. This can be traced from Genesis, the book of beginnings, to the Book of Revelation and the time of the End. In Genesis we see that Cain persecuted and killed Abel because the latter pleased God. Then we see a perfect picture in Abraham's son of the flesh, Ishmael, who teased and fought the son of promise, Isaac. And there was Esau, who hated Jacob and would have killed him, had not God intervened.
In the New Testament we find Judas betraying Jesus, while the religious orders of the first century attempted to destroy the early believers. The children of this world, controlled by the devil, hate the children of God who are controlled by the Holy Spirit. No matter how just and upright a Christian is before the public, and how gracious he is to his fellow man, doing naught but good, let him confess Christ as his Saviour and stand for ALL of what the Bible teaches - he or she will be criticized and condemned.
The very "life" of the True Believer is a testimony against the forms of godliness and worldliness of man-made religion. Therefore, persecution, spearation from family and friends [for the Word's sake] are a natural, normal part of the Christian life. There is only one thing you can do about them. Commit them all to God, judge not, and leave their outworking and final judgment to Him.
The Lord acknowledges how that the Believers in this Ephesian Age has "endured" and "patiently" dealt with the false apostle - ALL for HIS NAME'S SAKE - that the NAME of the Lord be exalted and not blasphemed. They "laboured" to the point of exhaustion, refusing to "faint" in the face of any opposition, knowing the promise in Galatians 6:9: "for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.".
Christ Reproves His Own
In The Ephesian Age
The scenario which has oft repeated itself in God's dealings with Israel is now seen in God's dealings with the Church. In the history of Israel we see revival start with one generation, only to see the fires fading in the next. In the third generation, the fire is reduced to glowing embers, but in the fourth there may be no trace whatsoever of that original flame. Then God lights the fire again, and the same process is repeated.
This process enforces the Truth that God has no grandchildren, ONLY Sons and Daughters. Salvation is not passed on by natural birth, water baptism, sprinkling, etc.; or a person's association with a church, it's rituals, dogmas or creeds - Salvation is a "personal experience" with the Living, Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38 is the path which, if followed by faith in the heart will produce an "experience" with Christ. A genuine experience will ALWAYS lead to HIS "Lordship" [by His Word] over your life. Loving Him, you will LOVE His Word.
Starting out with truly born-again believers in every revival, the Lord [through the Holy Spirit] maintains control [by His Word]. But the next generation, failing to fan the flames of the "original" revival fire gets further and further away from the "Life" of that Fire, becoming more organized and formal. By the third or fourth generation it has taken a denominational name - rather than "living" Christianity they are only impersonating it.
All denominational, inter-denominational and many non-denominational forms of Christianity eventually "reduced Salvation to "belonging" to, or attending a certain church or a certain religious group, being baptized a certain way, believing a certain doctrine, or experiencing a certain sensation, rather than the "Life" of Christ coming into the Believer's soul, manifesting a "daily" walk with God that dovetails with the Word of God. I don't say that some of them aren't right with God. Not for a minute do I say that, but the original fire has died down. They are not the same any more.
This is what happened to the Church here in the Ephesians Age. They were getting a bit formal. Absolute dedication to the Lord and allegience to His Word was dying out and the people were more concerned about what the world thought of them, rather than what God thought of them. That second generation coming on was just like Israel. Wanting to be like the other nations and wanting to be "recognized" as a real Kingdom, Israel demanded a "human" king to rule over them. When they did that, they rejected God as their King - they left their first Love.
The Church was beginning to do exactly what Israel did. In this First Age Christ reproves His own with the words: "Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." A generation was rising that wanted to be "recognized" by man. Therefore, in this First Age we find "false apostles" influencing the young church to "leave it's first Love" and submit, little by little to the idea of "organizing" Christianity and placing it under a "human-led" church government. Once the idea [seed] was sown, it wasn't long before the people began moving their allegiance from the Word of God to the organized church and it's creed. They change their manner of dress, their attitudes and their behaviour. They got lax. That is what "Ephesus" means: relaxed - drifting.
Like Paul, the Messenger, John, the great apostle of love also saw the early church drifting from it's first love. In his ministry he endeavoured to get the Church established in Divine Love - for God, His Word and for one another..... "And this is love, that we walk after [keep] His commandments [Word].
"And this is love, that we walk after [keep] His commandments [Word].
My little children, let us no love in word [theory], neither in tongue [speech], but in deed [practice] and in truth [the Word]"
But, already, the church was cooling in it's Love for her Lord. One little deviation from that Word was a step away from Christ. What Israel did the Church was also doing: "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:" [Isaiah 29:13]. Regardless of what they said with their mouth, their lives told another story. Jesus said, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" [Luke 6:46].
Christ WARNS His Own
In The Ephesian Age
The people were still religious but not walking fully in line with the WORD of the Lord. There was a tremendous influence in the Ephesian Church Age, causing them to "add to" that Word or "take from" it. This influence was so subtle that many were not able to recognize the deception. Dressed as "reason" and "human understanding" this anti-Christ spirit was gaining a foothold in the Church - exactly as the Devil gained ground in the Garden of Eden. In His message to this Age Christ issues this warning:
The Church was commanded to: "Remember" where and how the Church started - on the Day of Pentecost; Recognize their "fallen" state and "REPENT" for straying from the "Original" fire, power and Message of Pentecost, as much as they did; and do the "first works" over again. Failure to do as Christ commanded meant the "removal of the candlestick [Light] out of it's place".
Keep in mind that more than having just a "local" application, the Message is to the entire Church Age, especially that generation which was witnessing the closing out of the Ephesian Age and the ushering in of the Smyrnaean Age. Those who failed to repent and do the first works would be "blotted out" of the Book of Life [Rev. 3:5]. Applying the Message only to the "local" assembly in Ephesus we realize that the "candlestick" was removed - by the end of the "Age' the city of Ephesus was in ruins and not one Christian remained in what was now a squalid village.
In one of his epistles the Messenger to the Ephesian Age, Paul, the Apostle, issued this warning: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates [rejected, not standing the test]?" [2nd Corinthians 13:5]. Even to this Last Age, all would do well to heed this Scriptural warning.
Christ Exposes The Deception In This First Age Age
In verse 2 Jesus acknowledges the presence of "false apostles" in the Ephesian Church and Church Age. Now, in verse 6 He gives us more insight into "who" they are and what they're doing. Here, our Lord compliments and gives credit to the Elect in this age for their "attitude" toward the works of these false ones... "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." Like their Lord, they "detested" what Jesus simply refers to as "the deeds of the Nicolaitans".
Some Bible Scholars state that according to the early church fathers, namely, [Irenaeus, Ignatius, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian etc.] the "Nicolaitans" were a certain group within the Christian Church, who, while professing themselves to be Christians, lived licentiously. A man named Nicholas [one of many with this name] is said to be the founder of this group. Other Bible teachers deny that such a group or sect even existed.
But Irenaeus [the Messenger to the Smyrnaean Age] did indeed identify the Nicolaitans in his treatise "Against Heresies" in the second century. He referred to them as an "offshoot of the knowledge which is falsely so-called," mentioning that they "lead lives of unrestrained indulgence." Ignatius also mentions the Nicolaitans. Therefore, there ought not to be any doubt that there was in fact a heretical group existing "within" and "under" the banner of the Christian Church in the Ephesian Age.
In His message to the Ephesian Age, Jesus acknowledges the Nicolaitans to be an "identifiable group". The Elect Seed of God in this Age also recognized this group, because, like Jesus, they also HATED what this group was doing. And the "seeds of the deeds" of these Nicolaitans would through the Ages become a doctrine and then the "un-bending" way in the "organized" Church, under the leadership of men who are void of Holy spirit leadership.
No doubt Jude in his epistle was mindful of the false apostles and the Nicolaitan spirit already at work in the Church. Warning the Saints of these things he exhorted that they "should
earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude verse 3.
Peter also warns of the apostasy creeping into the early Church:
Paul, in his epistle to Timothy, warned of "seducing spirits" that would by erroneous teachings seek to defile many within the church:
The "deeds" of the Nicolaitans would indeed mushroom into a rebellion against the "absolute authority" of the Word of God. Beginning with these "deeds" man would "inject" his own ideas into how the church should be run.
We need go no further than the "name" of this group to identify their "deeds". The very name "Nicolaitan" comes from two Greek words: "Nikao", which means "to conquer"; and "Laos", which means "the laity". These "false" Nicolaitan teachers in the Church began to elevate the clergy above the laity - a distinction that did not exist in the Christian Church until the end of the second century. The false apostles and the "deeds" of the Nicolaitans are but proof of the "tares" which the Devil planted among the wheat in the First Church Age.
The messenger to this Age warned of what would happen after his departure from the scene: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
The "clergy order" being set in motion by the Nicolaitans here in the Ephesian Age would later developed into the papal hierarchy of priests and clergy over the laity. The Council of Trent stated, "If anyone shall say that there is not in the Catholic Church a hierarchy established by the divine ordination, consisting of bishops, presbyters and ministers, let him be anathema." For centuries the Roman Catholic Church "enforced" this doctrine of Nicolaitanism on the people.
Following the Great Reformation, all Protestant Revivals [after the flame died down] and man took control, this pattern of "clergy over the laity" was eventually adopted by the Protestants, adding their own corruption of church leadership. The anti-Scriptural separation of the clergy from the laity is a great evil in the eyes of God and He hates it. In this modern Age in which we live Nicolaitanism has descended into the shameful prideful spirit of control, manipulation, domination and intimidation and a rebellion of the rightful authority of God in the lives of the Believers.
Nicolaitanism denys the Biblical "priesthood" of all Believers - not just the ministry. The Revelation of Him who "walks
in the midst of the Seven Golden Candlesticks", is NOT just to the ministry, but to ALL Believers: "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."
"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."
John's greeting indicates that ultimately we all stand before Christ as "individuals".
The ministry is there to "teach" the people the Word, encouraging them to line up - NOT with a Church creed, but with what God says in His Bible. True servants of God will always point the people to the Word - NOT a Church, NOT a ministry, NOT a sensation - the WORD. For Jesus did say, ".....Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4. Nicolaitanism points to a Church, a group, a ministry, or a sensation.
By word and example God has placed guidelines even for the ministry to be governed by:
But Nicolaitanism would plague the church throughout history. It finally took over and God was pushed aside. It would in the oncoming Ages unite with other forces against the Elect. It's final end of course is the "lake of fire". Because of the opposition of the Elect in Ephesus against this Anti-Christ move, the group was supposedly forced out of Ephesus but not of of history. They eventually found a place of establishment in Pergamos - It is there that we meet them again - uniting with the "Doctrine of Balaam" to further undermine and intertwine itself around the True Church.
The false vine was getting a hold and it was, by false teaching, convincing the people that the right thing to do was to establish a "church government" to "control" everything pertaining to the Church. But instead of doing it God's way, they simply took all the authority and vested it in the clergy, with a holy priesthood standing between God and the people. They usurped the position and authority of the ONE and ONLY Mediator between God and men - the Man, Christ Jesus [1st. Timothy 2:5]. They by-passed the Word of God and taught their own doctrines, producing a way of worship which in no way resembled that of the early Church. But that same anti-Christ spirit is still running rampant through the church world today.
Christ's Final Exhortation
To The Ephesian Age
He that hath "an ear". It doesn't say, "ears". To "hear" the Voice of God one only needs "one" ear - the ear of the soul. It may be that millions will read these words. But how many will really give serious thought to what has been presented? But if the ear of your soul is open to the Word, the Spirit of God will make the Word real to you. The work of the Spirit is to "reveal" the Word to our hearts. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:" John 16:13. I can teach you the truth, but if you don't open your ear to hear it and your heart to receive it, you definitely won't get the revelation - as you ought to.
Notice, the conclusion of this Message to the Ephesian Age is not just for a local Ephesian church, nor for the first age only - it is for all the overcomers in all church ages: ".......hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;". The FIRST Church Age is like the Book of Genesis - what started in Genesis holds true throughout the entire Word and finally closes out in Revelation. Thus, this church beginning in Acts is God's blueprint for all ages until she closes out in the Laodicean Age. Watch it carefully. Let every age take heed, for what is going on here is only the start. That little tree that was planted is going to grow.
The Reward To The Overcomers In All Ages
The "overcomer" is one who engages in a "battle" with opposing forces and "overcomes" them. The Christian life has always been a warfare - a battle to
"abhor that which is evil [unbelief] and cleave to that which is good"
[the WORD] Romans 12:9. Paul said, "This charge I commit unto thee, .....that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;"
1st. Timothy 1:18. In Ephesians 6:12 we are further instructed in the kind of battle which engages the overcomers:
The overcomers overcome the influence of false teachers, Nicolaitanism, Balaamism and man-made religion. John said, "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one." 1st. John 2:14. They overcame, not by their own strength, but by virtue of the word of God which abideth in them. Again John speaks of the overcomer: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1st. John 4:4. To overcome one must stay, NOT with a church, a creed, a sensation, but STAY with what God says in His Word.
The promise to the over comer is: "to eat of the Tree Of Life, Which is in the midst of the paradise of God." When the last call to battle has been sounded, when our armor has been laid down, then we will rest in the paradise of God and our portion shall be the Tree of Life - to exist eternally, by the Life in this Tree.
This "Tree of Life" is mentioned three times in the Book of Genesis and three times in the Book of Revelation. In all six places it is the same tree. Trees throughout the Scriptures have been used to "symbolize" persons, as in Psalms 1:3, "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;" Thus the Tree Of Life must be the Person of Life, and that is Jesus. And the "Life" represented in this "Tree" is "Zoe", the very Life of God - Eternal Life.
In the Garden of Eden there were two trees standing in the midst of it. One was the Tree Of Life, the other was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was to live by the Tree Of Life; but he was not to touch the other tree or he would die. But man did partake of the other tree, and when he did, death entered into him by his sin, and he became separated from God. Until the price for sin was paid, man's right to the Tree of Life [Christ] was taken away.
Some feel that the two trees in the garden were just two more trees like unto the rest of those that God had placed there. But careful study will reveal that these two Trees represented "two beings" - One [Christ] had the Power of Eternal Life and the other [Satan] had the Power of Death. When John the Baptist cried that "the axe was laid to the root of all trees",
he was not talking of simply natural trees, but of spiritual principles. "And this is the RECORD, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son."
"And this is the RECORD, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son."
Thus the record, God's Word, states plainly and clearly that LIFE, ETERNAL LIFE, is in the Son. It is no other place.
Without a doubt, THE TREE IN THE GARDEN HAS TO BE OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. And the overcomer is given the right to to partake of that Life, now, and in the world to come - the Paradise of God. Jesus Said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33. Again he said, ""And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also. John 14:3 Praise the Lord!