The Orthodox Pages



Part 3 

13th DECEMBER 2012






























































































































































For the past two weeks we have been looking at the Book of Revelation. So far we have only covered the introduction so we have been going rather slowly and if we continue at the same rate we will need a whole year of talks just on Revelation. Thus from today we will pick up the pace and give a quick summery of each chapter and events. So continuing from where we left off from last week we enter properly into the epistle because the Book of Revelation is actually a letter to seven churches in Asia Minor.
John says: "I John... was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Here John is telling us that he was exiled to Patmos because he preached the word of God, because he witnessed to Jesus Christ. He continues: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea."
The voice reveals who he is; he is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last. This tells us that it is God because the alpha and the omega does not exist in any creation, in any human being; it is an attribute only of God. Alpha and Omega means the commencement of everything created; the commencement of the entire creation thus what the voice is really saying is I am Lord of space and time. But God is also outside of the Alpha and the Omega. The Alpha and Omega exists in God. Alpha is the beginning and likewise John began his Gospel telling us "In the beginning was the Word." But he is also the Omega; he can if he chooses bring his creation to an end; he can bring it back to zero. Everything exists and is contained in Him. Creation has a beginning and an end. Thus, the Alpha and Omega are in God and God is the Lord of time and space.
John turns around to see the voice that spake unto him and he saw seven golden candlesticks; "And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters."
The seven candlesticks represent the seven Churches in Asia. When we say churches we do not mean church buildings, but episcopates or metropolises, in other words cities or areas supervised under a bishop. I mentioned last week that the seven churches mentioned were real churches, real historical churches but also these churches are referred to as seven different realities or representative types of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church through the ages. Christ also probably picked out these churches because John's mission was in Asia Minor, he was based in Ephesus and before being exiled to Patmos, these churches were under his spiritual guidance.
In the midst of these seven candlesticks John saw one like unto the Son of man. One like unto the Son of man refers to Christ's humanity, but by using the word "like" John is telling us that there was something above the human, something supernatural and this was because Christ is not only human, he is God and man. He was clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps - that is the chest - with a golden girdle. This is not just any garment; it is the vestment of the Archpriest of the Old Testament which was held together with a golden belt around the chest. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow. This is the same person that Daniel saw in his vision: the Ancient of days. Daniel says: "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool." (Daniel 7:9) God is ageless, he lives outside of time, but his appearance as the Ancient of days reveals that he is more ancient that the creation of the world.
"And his eyes were as a flame of fire."
How are we to imagine this? It must be a frightful image and John was indeed frightened by what he saw. In the Old Testament Book - Wisdom of Sirach, it says that the eyes of the Lord are tens of thousand of times brighter that the sun. (23:19) By this the word of God wants to tell us that God sees everything, he is all-knowing. Nothing escapes his attention, he is in the midst of the seven churches, thus he is not ignorant of what is happening to his church, he is always there watching. But the eyes of flaming fire also signify that God is a consuming fire, a fire that becomes a flame of illumination for the saints, it shines light on them, but the same flame burns the infidels and the unrepentant sinners and the godless. In reality this is the divine glory or energy which reaches the Kingdom of God as pure light. It envelopes the place of the saints and illumines them and grants them all the gifts of God.
"And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace."
In Greek fine brass is called χαλκολίβανο which is in fact a mixture of gold and silver. Most metals when they are put under a burning torch glow when they are melting hot, but not like gold and silver. Gold and silver become brilliant, they shine like the sun; this is how the feet of the Lord were. This description shows the brilliance and stability and might of the feet of the Lord. The two metals gold and silver also show the two natures of Christ, the divine and the human.
"And his voice as the sound of many waters."
The sound of many waters. What is this sound? In Cyprus we don't have the opportunity to hear what this sounds like, but if anyone has visited the Niagara Falls, it is said that the sound of the fall can be heard from miles away. So here it is saying that the voice of the Lord was very impressive, it expresses the grandeur of the voice of Christ.
John continues: "And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead." Christ gives us the meaning of the seven stars in the last verse of the first chapter. He says: "The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." By angels he does not mean the heavenly angels, but the bishops of those cities he wants John to write to.
"And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword."
The word of God is portrayed here as a two-edged sword. In Hebrews, St. Paul uses the same image: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) Thus the word of God is awesome, It is characteristic of the word of God to touch someone, for example, when the word of God is preached to have someone in the audience to be touched in the depth of their being. The word of God comes many times to cut and pierce the soul, to cut up and break down a person, to extract mountains of baggage, to cut through and reach the bone marrow. The two-edged sword symbolizes the straight and fair judgement of Christ as the judge of the universe.
"And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."
This reminds us of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor. In Matthew we read that Christ took with Him Peter, James and John his brother and went up into a high mountain, and was transfigured before them: "and his face did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light." (St. Matth. 17:2). This light of the Transfiguration is the uncreated divine light of God that proceeds from His inaccessible nature. John was an eye witness of this event as he is also now a witness of the same divine glory shining upon him from the same person standing in front of him. In both cases the sight of the divine glory terrified John and as he says: "I fell at his feet as dead."
Let us now move on to the next chapter.
"Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."
Christ says to the bishop of Ephesus, I know thy works. He knows all things and sees all things because as he says - he is in the midst of the Churches and nothing escapes his attention. Christ begins by praising the bishop, by praising his labour and patience. The bishop worked hard in preaching the word of God and had great patience in dealing with heretics that were undermining his work. He cannot bear those who are evil. These are the people in his community that keep their evil ways while pretending to be Christians and members of the Church. It should be noted that in those days secularism, in other words a worldly spirit was not acceptable within the church, the church and the world were separate. In our days secularism has infiltrated the Church, people live by the spirit of the world and simply fulfil there duties as Christians by coming to church every so often. But the Bishop of Ephesus is very sharp in the area of ethics and cannot bear to see unacceptable behaviour in the church.
"And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars."
Here the bishop has followed the exhortation of the Lord to test those that are to become workers in the church. This is found in the Gospel of Matthew. "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Matth. 7:15-16) Christ praises the bishop of Ephesus because he has tested those who were to become priests in his area and by keeping a close eye and seeing their way of life, he separated those who would be good apostles from those who if he allowed to become priests would have caused great harm to the flock of the church. But after praising the bishop's strong points he then says he has something against him, because he has forgotten his first love and if he doesn't repent, serious punishment will follow. The initial burning love he had for Christ is cooling off. This is something that happens to all of us and the epistles to the seven churches is aimed at all the clergy and lay people of the entire church through the ages and what we need to do is identify our weaknesses through the letters. Here the Bishop directed all his energy in fighting the evil in his church and in fighting heretics. He worked overtime to cleanse the church from evil doers and this became the main preoccupation of the church of Ephesus. But in the process something was overlooked; the love for the Lord Jesus. This we often see even today among clergy and lay people. We spend so much time defending ourselves against the teachings of other churches and heretics or we spend our time correcting others, trying to teach them the ways of the church that we forget our own spiritual life. We forget our first love. This love is the enthusiasm, the zeal, the burning of the heart, the worship of the Lord that we usually find in the newcomers to the faith. I'm sure you have all seen a newcomer to the faith; he comes to know Christ and is full of fire and enthusiasm, full of tears at the word of God, full of sacrifice that takes over the soul. But after when some years have passed, we see this first love, this fire beginning to cool off, and what is left is a dry form of worship. His life, like all of us, enters the mould of life's daily routine. There's nothing worse that to reduce spiritual life to a routine and to keep going through the motions. We may go to church everyday and listen to the same Liturgy day in day out, but if our spiritual life does not ascend then we are going nowhere, but round in circles. We only satisfy our sense of duty but without any thirst or hunger for something more.
Thus the Lord says: "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." We therefore need to assess ourselves, to look into our hearts and see why this first love has died and if possible find the strength to rekindle it. And the only way back to the first love is repentance, which is a return to the first works.
After warning the bishop of his fallen state, Christ again praises him saying: "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate." Who are these Nicolaitanes which Christ also hates? They were Gnostic heretics who existed up to the third century by this name, but have existed even to the present day under other names. Gnosticism attempts to put into the same pot all religions. philosophy and ideology of all times, taking a bit from each, but passing itself off as Christian. They were classed as the worst kind of heretics, because their interpretation of the Gospels was horrendous. The Nicolaitanes were also antinomians; Nomos meaning the law and antinomians being against the law. By law we mean God's spiritual laws and ethics. The Antinomians had difficulty accepting the laws of spiritual life, and especially the laws concerning carnal sins. They were quite loose in this area saying that the law of God concerning these things were unrealistic and impossible to apply especially the abstinence or sexual control. For example young men and women are asked to remain virgins until their marriage and then to remain monogamous. The Nicolaitanes said we cannot accomplish this and thought "what is the purpose of God's commandments?" Its purpose they said was to destroy the flesh and to save the spirit. This of course is a distortion of the law. When the church tells you to fast or abstain from something the purpose is not to destroy the body, but to destroy the passions. But because they thought it was their duty to destroy the body. They used a different system which they considered was realistic and applicable; a system not with the law but against the law antinomia. As an antinomian I will indulge, I will keep eating and drinking until I burst, I will fornicate until I drop, and this is how I will destroy my flesh. The flesh must be abused, the misuse and abuse of the body is a must and by this method my spirit will enjoy happiness and become free.
Christ finishes his message to the bishop of Ephesus saying: "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." Note that he doesn't say "hear what the Spirit says unto the church of Ephesus," but "unto the churches" meaning his message is intended for all the church and throughout the ages.
The next epistle is to the bishop of Smyrna. He says: "These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
In this epistle Christ has only good things to say about the bishop of Smyrna. He knows his works, the good works he are doing and he knows his tribulation, his suffering for his name's sake. He knows his poverty but thou art rich. Is this a contradiction? Can someone be poor and at the same time rich? In Gospel terms poverty can be the hardship brought on by lack of money resources or it can mean a humble heart. The first beatitude in Matthew says: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matth. 5:3) This is usually interpreted as meaning blessed are those who meek and humble, but not all the fathers interpret it in this way. It can be interpreted as meaning blessed are they who of their own free will have made themselves poor. Certainly the same beatitude in Luke does not mention in the spirit, it simple says "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20) The beatitude is referring to people who of their own free will have given away all they had and followed Christ. If you remember the story of the young man who asked Christ what he should do to have eternal life, Christ told him: "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Matth. 19: 16-22) Here we find the meaning of being poor and rich at the same time. If one makes oneself poor for the sake of Christ, he will be rewarded with treasure in heaven. The bishop of Smyrna must have done this. He gave all he had to help the poor, and by his self imposed poverty he made himself rich because he possessed Christ who provided him with all that he needed.
"And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
This is rather strong language coming from Christ. If we were to call the Jews today the synagogue of Satan we would be labelled as harsh, polemic, fanatical, insensitive, a people of hate, a loveless people. In our times with inter-religious talks we are expected to be godlier than God, more lenient than God and more polite than God. But this is the language of the Gospel, the language of Christ, and if we follow Christ, shouldn't we also speak the same language and tone as Christ did when dealing with heretics. He says they blaspheme when they call themselves Jews and are the synagogue of Satan. These are the Jews who did not accept Christ as the Messiah. The title Jew is a title of honour. Christ himself was a Jew in his human nature and during his dialogue with the Samaritan woman he said salvation will come from the Jews. Now Jew does not mean all the Israelites, but only those who descended from the tribe of Judah, from the royal line of which Christ came from. But the Jews who did not accept Christ as the Messiah lost the right to call themselves by this title, thus they blaspheme when they call themselves Jews. The true Jew who believed in the prophets also believed in Christ. These true Jews became the church, the true Synagogue and any Synagogue outside of this true Synagogue does not belong to God, but to Satan. Christ calls them the Synagogue of Satan because they became very vindictive and full of hate towards the Christians. They had seen the Church spreading, growing and taking over their lands, converting their people and became full of jealousy.
I know I said that I will pick up the pace of these talks on the Book of revelation, but after listening to Archimandrite Athanasius and what he has to say on this subject, I think it would be very beneficial for you also to hear some of the things he has to say because there are issues that are contemporary and will help you to interpret a number of events that are unfolding in front of us. He says that Christ prophesied this jealousy and hatred of the Jews towards the Christians and their nations in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When we preach about the Parable of the Prodigal Son we always sympathise will the younger son who came to his senses and repented and found his way back to the bosom of his father. But we rarely analyse the psychology of the elder son. This elder son represents the Jews who became very jealous when they saw the younger son welcomed, praised and justified by the father. The prodigal son represents the nations who distanced themselves from the true God and were losing the salvation of their souls to sin and idolatry. And now God calls the nations, the gentiles, something the Jews were not ready or willing to accept within their communities. When St. Paul began to speak to the Jews in Jerusalem they were willing to listen, but when they heard him say that God sent him to the gentiles they became like men possessed; they threw dirt in the air and rent their clothes and demanded of the Roman centurion to kill him.

This psychology of the elder son of the parable towards the younger son continues to work itself out in history. We see this in the life of the apostles and especially of St. Paul when he attempted to preach in the synagogues in the various towns he visited. They were continually trying to kill him. They were possessed with a murdering jealousy towards Christians. This hatred and jealousy continued throughout history and to make things worse they had to deal with their prolonged frustration that their Messiah had not come. In order to deal with this frustration they created the Zionist movement about 200 years ago which was an attempt to take back their rights, punish the nations under whom they were humbled and dispersed, and to hold their heads above these nations and dominate them. This is a terrible reality and this is something very powerful, a very dark power with many tentacles which has spread out and embraced the entire world with the sole purpose to subdue and infiltrate the Christian nations mainly. These are not myths, this is not anti-Semitism, it is not being prejudice against the Hebrews; it is international news which the United Nations brought to the surface in 1970. They have succeeded in fighting the Christians from within, to turn the Christians against themselves. The Jews have infiltrated the political system, the political engine of every country, and they attempt to hold in their hands the economy of the nations, the stock markets, the governments, the press and mass communications. It has been proven that they control the news media. The greatest newspapers of the world are in the hands of the Jews, and they offer the news exactly how they want to. This is the way they lord over the nations and we can see clearly in THE PROTOCOLS OF THE WISE MEN OF ZION, a book published at the beginning of the last century which they have succeeded in fooling people, at least in America that the book is an anti-Semitic myth. By reading the contents of the book one can see that their objective and their schemes against the nations have been fully revealed and met. The original text was written in Russian in 1905 and is considered by many as a true document of the Protocols, in other words, the minutes of a secret meeting of the First Zionist Congress held at Basle, Switzerland in 1897 under the presidency of the Father of Modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl. The identities of those present are not known although they were about 300 of whom it is said govern the fate of the European continent. These are the learned or Wise men of Zion. Those interested in reading the book describing the Jews satanic plans for world domination by controlling the economy, education, religions, political leaders, wars, the mass media and much more can download the book from the Internet.
Let's now return to the Book of Revelation.
After saying that the Jews are the synagogue of Satan, Christ continues: "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Here Christ is referring to a new tribulation, a new trial of persecution that some of the Christians of Smyrna will suffer for ten days. This persecution is being brewed by the devil but his immediate organs will be the Jews and this is not surprising since Christ calls them the synagogue of Satan. But the figurative number ten does not mean literally ten days. All numbers in revelation and Scripture in general are figurative. The Parable of the ten virgins for example does not mean that there were only ten virgins. The number is a round figure which can be divided into two equal groups of five. A round figure is used so that we do not start playing around with percentages like 80% will be saved and the other 20% will be lost. Likewise the 1000 year reign of Christ and the Church mentioned in Revelation does not literally mean 1000 years as interpreted by the Jehovah Witnesses and many Protestants, it is a figurative number signifying a long time and it represents the time of the Church, the time of the kingdom of God. The Church is already living in this kingdom for as we say in the beginning of the Divine Liturgy: "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The thousand years represents the period of time from the first coming of Christ until the Second Coming of Christ. Likewise the ten years signifies a short period of time. And indeed it was just a short time.

The persecution against Smyrna occurred in 155AD. during which the bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp was martyred. So if the Book of Revelation was written in 95AD there is a short period of 60 years between the prophecy and its fulfilment. The martyrdom of St. Polycarp is well documented and is one of the oldest accounts of martyrdom that we have. In it the biographer says that the entire crowd of idolaters and Jews, living in the area of Smyrna, overtaken by great anger, cried out with a loud voice wanting Polycarp to be burnt alive and all this was incited by the Jews. Polycarp was put into the fire, but the flames did not harm him and so he was eventually beheaded with the sword. The Jews advised the idolaters to not give the body to the Christians because they said they would make a new Christ out of him. So they requested the body of St. Polycarp so that they could dispose of it secretly.
The epistle to the bishop of Smyrna ends similarly to the epistle to the bishop of Ephesus: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;" But Christ adds: "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." What is this second death? The first death is the common physical death that we all have to go through, the biological death, the separation of the soul from the body. The second death is the eternal separation of man from God after the general resurrection. John presents us with the meaning of this second death towards the end of the Book of Revelation; he says: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (21:8) The Lord also makes this quite clear in the Gospel of John: "Verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." (8:51) He is not referring to the first death because everyone will taste the first death, but those who keep his sayings will not taste of the second death, but will pass from death into everlasting life.
The third epistle is to the Bishop of Pergamos. Christ says: "To the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."
Pergamos was situated north of Smyrna at about 8 kilometres distance. It was famous for its material and spiritual wealth. At about the time of the writing of the Book of revelation it was a centre of attraction for civil, commercial and religious activities. Pergamos was the city in which the world renowned special writing membrane was invented. This was a modified leather substance commonly known as parchment or vellum on which articles could be written. Pergamos came to compete with Egypt which had the monopoly on papyrus. Parchment proved to be more durable and cheaper than papyrus and was preferred by the early writers making Pergamos a very wealthy city. Parchment also had the advantage of being produced in pages of equal size and could be bound into a book.
Christ says to the Bishop of Pergamos: "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is." The citizens of Pergamos worshiped the pagan god Zeus. In the centre of the city was a 300 metre hill and on the top of this hill was the grandest of altars of the entire known world dedicated to Zeus, much like the Acropolis of Athens. Along with Zeus, Augustus, the Caesar of Rome was also worshiped as a god. The goddess Rome, that is the city of Rome was given a divine dimension and every reigning Caesar was worshipped as a god. So in this city there was not only widespread idol worship but also Caesar worship. There is of cause a reason for this and this will explain why the Christians were put to death. The reason was that of national unity. That is why when the Christians denied to offer sacrifice to god Caesar, they were accused of committing a crime of high treason. They were declared to be atheists and consequently a crime of treason was a crime of the highest degree. That is why the world of idolatry turned so viciously against the Christians. There were other reasons as well but this was the bottom line behind the fierce persecution against the Christians.

In the midst of this idolatrical environment, in a centre that worshipped Zeus and Caesar, in a city full of idols, in a city which most likely housed the government headquarters of the Roman governor of the entire Asia Minor, in the midst of this city now the Church of Christ begins to sprout and grow and move forward. That is why Christ says to the bishop of Pergamos, I know where you live, even where Satan's seat is. And being surrounded by these idol worshippers the bishop stood fast to his faith in Christ. Christ said: "You hold fast to my name and has not denied my faith even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth." Antipas was a disciple of St. John and the first bishop of Pergamos. Tradition says that through his presence in Pergamos, the demons began to scream and protest and their voices began to be heard through the statues, the idols and were heard by the idol worshippers saying that they were ready to leave the city because Antipas was forcing them out. This infuriated the idol worshippers and they took hold of Antipas and dragged him and threw him into a red-hot copper bull, where usually they put the sacrifices to the idols. Thus Antipas became a martyr for Christ in the year 68AD.
But as we saw previously with the letter to the bishop of Ephesus, after the praises come the reprimands. Christ says: "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." It seems that within the Christian community there were some priests who were influenced by the idol worshippers and some who held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes of which we saw earlier.

The doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication is from the Old Testament. After the children of Israel had left Egypt and just before entering the Promised land they had camped outside of the kingdom of the Moabites whose king was Balac. When Balac saw the Israelites he became very concerned, but seeing that they were about two million, he didn't dare go out to war against them. He had heard of a famous magician in Mesopotamia called Balaam and sent messengers to ask him to come and put a curse on the Israelites in exchange for great wealth. Balaam was warned of God not to go but after the king kept insisting he eventually took the journey. The king took him to a high place where he could see the Israelites and asked him to put a curse on them that they might leave his boundaries. Balaam told him that he would sacrifice, but he will only say what God will say to him. As he prepared for the sacrifice Balaam began to praise the Israelites. This infuriated the king but Balaam reminded him that he could only say what he was instructed to say from the God of the Israelites. The king took him to another place to repeat the sacrifice, but again he began to praise and bless the Israelites. After the third attempt the king was so angry that he told Balaam to depart without payment. What could Balaam do he wanted the money, but God would not allow him to say anything against the Israelites. He went back to the king and thinking that God might not hear him he whispered to the king that he had a plan that would get rid of the Israelites. He told him that if he managed to get them to sacrifice to another god and if they fornicated, which their God despised, their God would become angry and leave them and that way they could be defeated. A truly demonic advise from the servant of the devil. So the Moabites organized a great feast and invited the young Israelites. At this feast the Moabite women dressed to seduce succeeded in fornicating with the young men and under the influence of the feast, they sacrificed to the Moabite gods and ate the meats sacrificed to these idols. God was indeed angry with the Israelites and demanded Moses to order the death of all those that took part in the sacrifice which numbered 24, 000. So Balaam knew what he was saying when he advised Balac to get them to sin.

Now the Nicolaitanes were doing the same thing in the Church. The same old sins of sexual immorality and idolatry. What is significant and interesting is that the name Balaam in Hebrew means Nicholaos and it is not by accident that these heretics were called Nicolaitanes. Nicholaos has two meanings; the first meaning the victory of the people and the second as he who is victorious over the people. So Nicholaos with the second meaning is the one who defeats and destroys the people.
Christ ends the epistle to the bishop of Pergamos saying: "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 hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
We do not have time to look at these properly but very quickly Christ uses the image of hidden manna because he has already made reference to the Israelites in the wilderness who ate manna, but also because they ate of polluted foods offered to the idols. But here he says that to him that overcomes this temptation will I give to eat of the hidden manna. The hidden manna is Christ himself. In the Gospels he says; "I am the true manna that came down from heaven" The true manna is his body that we receive during the Divine Liturgy.

The image of the white stone is this. The ancient Greeks during elections used to use pebble stones where they wrote the name of the candidate they were voting for. On the beaches of the Mediterranean one can find a very porous and light chalky stone. This stone was called psifitha because of the psi sound it made as it was carried by the waters. And because this psifitha stone was used for the voting, the Greek word for vote is psifos. This voting system was not only used during elections but also in the court system where the jurors would use this stone for the sentencing or the acquittal of the defendant. So here when the Lord says I will give him a white stone what he is saying in our modern language is that he will give him a clean slate. And this means that this man will not go through judgement. St. John in his Gospel writes, "I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement; but is passed from death unto life." In other words after the biological death, the person will not pass through judgement but will automatically enter eternal life. The new name written on the stone is unknown, only the person who receives this stone will know the name written on it. This new name cannot be revealed in this present life.