In the Revelation He communicated by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle John, Jesus issued a terse but severe warning to the Early Apostolic churches expressed His utter disdain for both the deeds and the doctrines of the Nicolaitans. He commended the Ephesian Church for being in accord with His own hatred for the deeds of the Nicolaitans: “Yet this you do have, that you hate the DEEDS of the Nicolaitans, WHICH I ALSO HATE” (Rev. 2:6). Conversely, the Pergamum Church Jesus condemned for the fact that, “you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Further demonstrating His contempt for the Nicolaitan false teaching, He followed this indictment with the command, “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
In short, Nicolaitanism was a heretical hierarchical system of church‑government devised, propagated, and instituted by a corrupt sect of usurpers that surfaced toward the end of the First Century A.D. The teaching of the Nicolaitans was the genesis of the concept that remains yet today in much of Christendom in which an elite class of professional clergy is set in as a hierarchical ecclesiastical government to in effect lord over the laity. The Nicolaitans taught and instituted a form of ecclesiastical hegemony (domination by force by one entity over another) based on a pyramiding, multilevel ascendancy structure comprised of priests, bishops, and cardinals, and so on, all of whom were under complete subjection to a singular religious potentate, who was venerated as the human substantiation of Christ Himself—the Pope. The residual of this system today—still alive and well and revered by millions of adherents—is the Papal System of the Catholic Church.
The Nicolaitan heresy was virtually identical in essence to the Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices propagated by proponents and yet prevalent in the Post-Pentecostal church today. How much more significant that becomes when it is understood that it was primarily these perverse precepts and their propagators that were responsible for plunging the Church into the spiritual “black hole” of the Dark Ages, from which the collective Church is still today in the process of recovery and restoration.
[Read Part 1 of this article, for more information on Nicolaitanism and its existence in the Church today.]
Apostolic Authority Supplanted by the Nicolaitan Doctrines
Jesus’ apocalyptic warning against the doctrine and the deeds of the Nicolaitans is more than just interesting. The truth of the matter is that had the early churches given heed to those Divine warnings, the course of history would have been totally different than what it was, because as mentioned before the demonically inspired teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans resulted ultimately in the Papal system that supplanted the apostolic authority upon which the Church was founded. This, indeed, was not only the most grievous and egregious effect of the Nicolaitan heresy, but no doubt also the very objective of the arch‑enemy of the Church, Satan, who personally contrived this diabolical deception.
In His now infamous dissertation to Peter and the other Apostles of the Lamb, Jesus declared the Church to be His very own possession, His consuming passion, and that He Himself was its Chief architect and builder, when He proclaimed, “I will build My Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18). When contemplating this statement, it is imperative to remember that when Jesus said He would build His Church, He meant He would build His Church through, foremostly, the foundation ministries of apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). Prior to His ascension, Jesus personally selected twelve “disciples” who by His appointment and anointing became “apostles” (Mat. 10:1,2), and relegated to them the task and function of being the chief surrogate builders of His Church. The apostolic precedent He set and never rescinded remains in effect throughout the Church Age. 1 Cor. 12:28 makes this abundantly clear, in that it explicitly states that “God has SET in the CHURCH, first apostles, second prophets,” which means that apostles and prophets are permanently set into Church for as long as the Church exists and remains here upon the Earth, or in other words, for the duration of the Church Age. The term “set” in this passage, it is important to understand, connotes permanence, in the way the term is used to refer to what happens with concrete as it dries—it becomes set.
Further evidence that apostles are the surrogate “builders” of the Church is found in the Apostle Paul’s statement concerning the nature and function of his ministry as an apostle: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise MASTER-BUILDER I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it” (1 Cor. 3:10). The term “master‑builder” Paul used is the equivalent of what today is called a “general contractor,” which is the most concise yet comprehensive definition of the ministry of the apostle in the Bible.
A general contractor is the person responsible for building the building precisely according to the predetermined design of the architect represented on the blueprints. The general contractor, while he must himself be skilled and knowledgeable in each and every phase of construction and installation, cannot, for the sake of the successful completion of the overall project, hinder his effectiveness by becoming involved in the actual labor of any of the particular phases of the construction process. Rather, the function of the general contractor is that of coordination, administration, and oversight of the building process. He must see the overall “big picture” and oversee its completion. He must concentrate his efforts solely on organizing and overseeing the work of all the subcontractors and laborers in his charge, selecting and efficiently employing just the right person for each phase of the building process, in order that the building be built in precise accordance with the specifications of the architectural design.
Apostles are spiritual general contractors. What makes them apostles is that they are graced with and can at any time as necessary flow in the full range of the Ministry Gifts. Plus, they have also been anointed with the gift of spiritual (not to be confused with, business) administration. Spiritual administration includes for one thing a supernatural ability to discern by the Spirit the spiritual gifts with which believers have been anointed by God, so as to, on behalf of the Lord, select and appoint the right people to the right spiritual functions and responsibilities. Square pegs in square holes; round pegs in round holes. Apostles also employ the range of Ministry Gifts to train and equip other believers to function in their particular gifts and callings, and to coordinate those efforts in a cohesive and collaborative effort toward the spiritual edification of the Church.
The Church is established “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the Cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19,20). Truth declares unequivocally that the Church Jesus is building is founded upon and will be built up through apostolic authority. The true Church of Jesus can never be established upon any form of government other than apostolic authority. The Church‑Age began with apostolic authority in place, and apostolic authority will be in place at its culmination. Moreover, it will only be when the Church returns to apostolic authority and foundation that genuinely significant spiritual advancements will be made.
The natural nemesis of that apostolic authority has always been, and will always be humanly contrived and appointed, politically‑based, hierarchical systems of ecclesiastical government. Supplanting of the apostolic authority and government established by Jesus was a primary factor precipitating the Church’s gradual descent into the throes of deception and apostasy that transpired in the Dark Ages. Abrogation of apostolic authority in favor of politico-ecclesio hierarchy led to the virtual debacle of the Church as the instrument for implementation of Divine purpose, reducing it instead to being an agent of demonically‑inspired humanistic purposes. No other single element was more causal to the deterioration of the Church during its corporate apostasy than this supplanting of apostolic authority.
Similarity of Nicolaitan and Discipleship Heresies
So much more could be said with regard to the imperativeness of apostolic authority in the Church today, but space here will not permit. The point I am establishing here is that the teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans and the modern Discipleship teachings and practices are virtually identical. It is an indisputable fact that the Nicolaitan heresy was the primary force leading to the supplanting of apostolic authority in the Early Church, which in turn ultimately led to the corporate apostasy of the Dark Ages. So also the heretical Discipleship/Shepherding teachings advocate a counterfeit authority system that in effect supplants apostolic authority. The similarity is just too striking to be merely ironic or coincidental. Rather, it is my confident conviction that the Nicolaitan doctrines were planted by Satan in the Early Church to supplant and effect the abrogation of apostolic authority, and in identical fashion the Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines were implanted by Satan in the Last Day Church with the express intent to supplant apostolic authority, and impede, or if possible, preclude, the restoration of same. In the case of the latter, however, Satan’s efforts, in the end, will not be successful, for apostolic authority will indeed be restored to the Church.
We are told through the writing of Solomon that in reality there is nothing that is truly “new”:
That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new?” Already it has existed for ages which were before us. (Ecc. 1:9,10)
And so it also is with the unscriptural hypotheses brought forth in the heretical Discipleship doctrines. They are virtually identical to those propagated by the Nicolaitans, which, as I have said repeatedly, was the seed from which the fallacious hierarchy of the universal Roman church was germinated.
The reason for the similarity lies squarely in the fact that these doctrines were not merely contrived in the minds of men. Rather, they genuinely are “doctrines of demons” of the sort prophesied by the Apostle Paul in his letter to his younger protégé Timothy (1 Tim. 4:1ff). He foretold that in the last days there would arise patently demonic but subtle and impelling doctrines of deception that would actually be propagated by lying, deceiving spirits through the agency of human teachers. These false teachings would be so subtle and impelling that many genuine and sincere believers would be duped by and give heed to them, with the result that bona fide believers will fall away from a true relationship and rightstanding with God into apostasy and perdition.
Indeed, this egregiously erroneous Discipleship/Shepherding teaching, I am absolutely persuaded, is a doctrine of this sort. It is contrived by the devil himself and propagated by his fallen cohorts, demons, with the objective of craftily leading unsuspecting believers into spiritually idolatrous and adulterous covenants with mere men, and away from effectual relationship and rightstanding with God. As I have been establishing, these doctrines and practices are essentially the same age‑old attempts by Satan to captivate and control people through the mythical utopian bliss of religious collectivism: “promising them freedom while they (Satan and his cohorts) are the slaves of corruption” (2 Pet. 2:19, parenthesis added by the author).
Are We Heading Toward Another Corporate Apostasy?
Jesus’ apocalyptic warning against the doctrine and the deeds of the Nicolaitans is more than just interesting. The truth of the matter is that, had the early churches given heed to those Divine warnings, the course of Church history would have been totally different than what it was, because as mentioned before the demonically inspired teaching and practices of the Nicolaitans resulted ultimately in the Papal system that supplanted the apostolic authority upon which the Church was founded and consequently ended up in apostasy. This, indeed, was not only the most grievous and egregious effect of the Nicolaitan heresy, but no doubt also the very objective of the arch-enemy of the Church, Satan, who personally contrived this diabolical deception.
The question before the Church today is: will we allow ourselves to be taken into the error and resulting apostasy that was the fate of the Pergamum Church by continuing on this path of displacement of apostolic authority by a Scripturally-invalid system of government and authority, i.e., “bishops,” and the rest that comes after that, or shall we cease and desist from that trend and opt instead to return to the apostolic-prophetic foundation so that indeed “the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the former (Hag 2:9)?”
The harlot Worldwide Universal Church, will not cease and desist from that path, but will follow it to the end—in the name of ecumenicism, ally with all the “religions” of the world (true Christianity is not a religion and is the only faith that will be excluded from the alliance) and align under the Roman Papal System, recognizing the Pope as the supreme spiritual potentate and the transubstantiation of Christ. Sadly, the Spirit tells me that huge blocks of even the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal Church, led by their false, self-appointed “bishops,” will ultimately depart from the true Church Jesus is building and ally with the apostate Antichrist universal church, taking multitudes of their adherents with them, in fulfillment of the Spirit’s prediction set forth in First Timothy 4:1,2.
[Editiorial Note: Astoundingly, around the start of this year, 2003, many months after the writing of the above prophetic paragraph, upon mentioning it to a minister-friend, she became exercised in the Spirit and related to me an event transpiring a few months prior in which a friend had accompanied a large contingent of Charismatic “bishops” on a “missionary” travel tour the main purpose of which was a prearranged official Papal audience at the Vatican at which each bishop genuflected and kissed the Pope’s ring, and he in turn blessed each one.]
Which Church Will You Be A Part Of?
As sad and distressing as that is, the most important question of all to you, the reader, and to every believer is: Which church will you be a part of—the one whose ultimate architect is the arch-enemy of God, which will be led by the false prophet in alliance with the Antichrist, or the End-time Remnant Church that Jesus is building, whose Architect is God, and is led by the Conquering Christ, the Champion of our salvation?###
For more on this topic, read the companion article: Bishops and Apostolic Succession.