Welcome to Thus Say the Prophets!
The Revelation of Y'shua the Anointed:
A Study into the Noahide Nazarene Way
By Ben Ruach ha Kodesh (John of AllFaith) � 9.16.09 (3.15.08)
Chapter Two -- Part Two
The Church of Smyrna:
170 CE - 312 CE: As the followers of Y'shua the Anointed and other Jews held firm to their devotion to the God of Israel they continued to experience severe persecution from many different fronts. During this period there was little time to debate doctrine, the followers of the Way were struggling just to survive! It was during this period that the Maranatha fish and IHS logo were developed as secret identifiers by which the beleaguered followers could recognized one another. It was the IHS logo that led to Y'shua the Anointed becoming known as "Jesus the Christ."
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 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.
10 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.
11 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.
Here we see the Nicolaitanes clearly identified. These people were claiming "to be Jews" but they were not. They had become something wholly different and their power was growing! Y'shua the Anointed is Jewish. ALL of his disciples were Jewish. As Noahides (Gentiles) embraced the Way they considered themselves converts to Judaism, grafted onto the Tree of Israel (Romans 11). The difficulty with this however was that the Jewish hierarchy did not accept the ministry of Y'shua and his followers and hence rejected the conversions (much as Orthodox Judaism today rejects conversions into Reconstructionist Judaism). How could the Noahide Nazarenes be Jewish when the leaders of Judaism rejected them? This difficult situation and its resolution is described in detail in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The final decision of the Apostles was that those who wished to enter into the Way Congregation would not be required to formally convert into Judaism (via circumcision, the acceptance of the Jewish authorities etc) but would be admitted solely through their faith in Y'shua the Anointed. This controversy is what spawned the new religion of Master Y'shua as distinct from Judaism. At this point -- 170-312 CE -- the true followers of the Master, Jews and Noahides alike, still considered themselves to be Jews as this verse makes clear.
The Nicolaitanes however were already abandoning the precepts of Judaism and establishing something entirely different: Modern Christianity. This growing abandonment of Judaism by the followers of the Way was a development, "which I also hate" (vs.6).
As we approach the 300's the Nicolaite heresy is gaining popularity and influence. This was partly because those who surrendered to Roman rule faced less persecution, partly because of false teachings to people who knew no better, and partly due to the growing, even rampant, Antisemitism of the day.
Unlike growing numbers of Way Believers, the Jews who had not embraced Master Y'shua's reforms were adamant in their rejection of Rome and its developing Universal religion. As the Way was conforming to Roman Paganism, the Jews throughout the empire were seeking ways to keep Judaism relevant despite the loss of the Holy Jerusalem Temple. The Pharisees were the most effective in this and they gradually developed what we today know as Rabbinical Judaism. Now the Jews had to contend not only with overt Pagans attacking them but also with people who claimed to be 'the true Jews!' Who claimed the God of Israel had rejected His people in favor of mainly Gentile Pagans! Oy Vey!
As the Nicolaitanes gradually embraced Roman Universalism and established their own authority based upon the diverse Pagan See at Rome, persecution against their followers subsided. For the Jews however it was business as usual and their struggle for survive showed no sign of easing! The New Religion was adamant in its demands: The Jews must embrace the One True Universal Church or perish!
The Church of Pergamos: From Constantine to Pope Boniface III