The doctrines taught by these false teachers are in Revelation's letter to the church in Pergamos: "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword . . . Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.' " (Revelation 2:12, 15)
The Lord not only demands repentance from those who believe and practice the 'doctrine of the Nicolaitans' but also threatens severe punishment if they do not obey: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent." (Revelation 2:5).
Greek meaning of word
The Greek word for Nicolaitans (Strong's Concordance Number #G3531) found in Revelation is actually three words combined. As a proper noun, it TRANSFERS, but is not translated, into English. The three Greek words used are Nikos, Laos and Ton.
The first Greek part of the English word Nicolaitans is NIKOS. We use the English equivalents instead of the Greek letters, as we shall also of the other two. Nikos is defined as "a conquest, victory, triumph, the conquered and by implication, those who are dominate over the defeated." Another transferred name in which this word is used is Nicopolis. It is composed of Niko, which means conquest, and polis, which means city. Nicopolis therefore means the city of conquest, or city of victory.
The middle part of the word Nicolaitans, in the Greek is LAOS. This word means people. It also is in NICOLAS, which transfers and composes into 'Nikos-laos.' This means one who is "victorious over the people," the letter "s" being in both words the nominative case ending, which is retained only at the end of the word to denote the case, while "a" short and "o" short are contracted into "a" long. A still further transferred use of LAOS is found in the name LaoSdiceans (Strong's Concordance Number #G2994), compounded with DIKE or DICE.
The last part of the word in question is TON. It is contracted into a long "a," thus making the word TAN which is the genitive case plural in all the genders of the definite article 'the.' We therefore have, without the legal Greek construction, the English hyphenated word NIKOS-LAOS-TON, but which, with its lawful contractions, becomes the English translation found in Revelation.
Real world meaning
In its ecclesiastical setting, Nicolaitans means the bishops and prelates of the Church have gained a triumphal victory or conquest over the LAITON, the laity. Members are compelled and forced to submit to the arbitrary dominion of men who have become that thing which God hates:
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; NOR AS BEING LORDS OVER THOSE ENTRUSTED TO YOU, but being examples to the flock" (1Peter 5:1 - 3).
The teachings and preaching of the Nicolaitans are in religious and secular dictionaries. When we look for the definition of the term we find it is a "hierarchy: the power of dominion, government by ecclesiastical rulers" we find the following, which is offered as evidence:
"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, Council of Trent (translation) XXIII 6." (Century Dictionary)
Let anyone who has the audacity to say there is not a hierarchy, not a collection of human beings who try to exercise authority over others, as ecclesiastical rulers over churchmen, let that man be ACCURSED. Surely, the thing in which that ecclesiastical company is glorying is their shame!
Webster's dictionary defines the word "episcopal" as "the power of government, belonging to, or invested in, bishops or prelates. Government of the church by bishops." It also says, "in episcopacy, the order of bishops is superior to the other clergy, and has exclusive power to confer orders."
The above definition affirms that a certain portion of presbyters (elders) were "in apostolic times superior in authority to ordinary presbyters." It also mentions the fact that episcopacy recognizes "episcopal rank," which is created by the institution thus governed. It all of which affirms that any church in which episcopal government obtains is practicing the very carnal and fleshly iniquity of creating "superiors" in what should be a holy brotherhood. The use of this appellation makes INFERIORS out of brethren who are in the selfsame clergy.
RANK and HIERARCHY
The approbation of "ordinary elders" demands a set of elders who are extra special, thus creating "rank" in the otherwise Divine brotherhood, all of which DESTROYS fellowship, creates division and strife, and fosters envy. It is no marvel that Jesus hates this, condemns it, and demands the guilty repent.
The question is will those who follow the ways of the Nicolaitans repent? Yes, some will when the tribulation is on. Others, however, will stick to their ecclesiastical crowd, vainly imagining that their boasted "superiority" will carry them through that time of the greatest trouble the world has ever known, or will know. They must go down with the rest of the hosts of Antichrist.