A couple of times in the second chapter of Revelation, God states that He hates the deeds and the doctrine of the Nicolatians. However, the identity and background of this mysterious group is not explained; in fact, the name appears nowhere else in Scripture. So who were these people of false doctrine?
Some scholars (as gleaned from the writings of some of the early church fathers) suggest that these are followers of a fallen deacon, Nicolas (Acts 6:5). This is a very tenuous claim, however, and some suggest that the group was named after another Nicolas, perhaps even the son of the deacon Nicolas, who later became bishop of Samaria.
If one of these two individuals was in fact the founder of the group that bears the name, what exactly was wrong with their doctrine?
Nicolas of Antioch was ordained as a deacon (Acts 6:5) and described as a “proselyte”. That means that he forsook his pagan roots and embraced Judaism. Subsequently, he changed his mind (and his religion) again and began to follow “The Way”. It has been speculated that if this individual was so adept at switching religious allegiances, perhaps he carried a lot of the old pagan beliefs and practices along with him. Those deep roots in paganism may have given him a tolerance for occultist practice, perhaps even leading him to believe that these things were not so dangerous or damaging. Such a liberal view would encourage people to stay connected to their old world of sin, hedonism, and occult beliefs. In Revelation 2:14-15, we are told that this Nicolatian practice is compared to that of Balaam, who placed a stumbling block before the people, causing them to sin.
The doctrine of the Nicolatians promoted and encouraged compromise, and that compromise of faith resulted in a weakened and powerless form of Christianity. Some say that this is exactly what has happened to the western church; we’ve become irrelevant because we have compromised our faith and give more heed to the ways and mores of the world than to what The Word teaches we should do and say and believe.