The three-part Greek word from which we get Nicolaitans is Nikolaites (Strong's #G3531). The first part, Niko, is defined as a conquest or victory over others. The second part, lai, means people. The last part, tes, represents the word "the." Taken together, the word is defined as someone who is a conqueror or victor over people.
Surprisingly, the Nicolaitans are only referenced twice in Scripture, both of which are in the book of Revelation. The first time they appear is in God's spiritual assessment of the Ephesian church. He commends them by stating that they hate the works of these people which he, too, also hates (Revelation 2:6). The doctrines taught by them also are mentioned a few verses later, when the Pergamos church is called to repent because they firmly believe in the teachings of this group (verse 15).
In a church setting, these people set themselves up to rule over the lives and faith of other church members. They compel and try to force others to submit to their arbitrary position of authority that God never gave them and which he hates! The Apostle Peter warned that leaders among the church were not to dominate over the faith of others but rather exhort them to do right.
The elders who are among you I exhort, even as a fellow elder . . . Feed the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight not by compulsion, but willingly; not in fondness of dishonest gain, but with an eager attitude;
Not as exercising lordship over your possessions; but by being examples to the flock of God (1Peter 5:1 - 3).
The hierarchical teachings of the Nicolaitans openly reared its head during the Catholic Church's Council of Trent that was held between 1545 and 1563. They 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 (a person who is to be detested and excommunicated)."
The entire top-down church administrative structure of the Catholics, as well as many other churches, owes its survival to maintaining what the Nicolaitans taught and promoted.
The deceptive doctrine of these people is that a strict hierarchy of control must be maintained and respected within the church. Ranks and levels are created in order to maintain power so that those considered part of the lowest level of the church (the members) can be taken advantage of at will. The whole system feeds on competition and strife among those who consider themselves believers in Jesus.
The Lord not only demands repentance from those who believe the doctrine of the Nicolaitans but also threatens severe punishment if they do not. God warns those who practice such lies, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen . . . or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:5). May the warning be heeded!