And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
What is the good news of the kingdom, and how can it be proclaimed as a testimony to all the nations?
He put His love (i.e., His Spirit) in our hearts so that we could love one another the same way He loved us. So to proclaim this good news as a witness or testimony to the nations means not just to speak, but for those who proclaim it to live together in every place just as they did in Jerusalem in Acts 2 and 4. This witness is for the King's subjects to make their first-hand experience of His love visible to the surrounding world by living together in love and unity:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:22-23)
If this were ever to be done throughout the world over a period of several generations with increasing rather than decreasing zeal and consistency, it would bring about the end of the age, the Jubilee,1 the "acceptable year" Isaiah the prophet spoke of. Then Yahshua could return to judge righteously all those who despised the demonstration of His rule and persecuted His people. But this demonstration can only come about by His people being devoted to it, as Paul urged:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Except for a short time in the first century when the church was as described in Acts 2:44-47 and 4:32-35, this has never been done. Love left and doctrine took over. But since love is the Spirit,2 which fulfills the Law,3 so shall love also produce the right doctrine. However, doctrine does not, cannot, never has, and never will produce love.
It all began with Romans 5:5,
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
and 1 John 2:15 and 3:17 is how it all stopped:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. ... Whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
Since the first century, the world has not seen the love of 1 John 3:16 and John 13:34-35, which makes the unity of John 17:23 happen -- being one as the Father and the Son are one. In order for the church to be restored, Acts 2 and 4 must be restored, and this takes a community, and a community takes love. God Himself is this kind of love, without which community is a useless endeavor done only in man's own strength and ingenuity, i.e., the flesh. For true community to happen, the flesh must be crucified, which is what Yahshua was talking about when He said,
Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
This is the secret no one knows except those who know they have passed out of eternal death and into eternal life:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
Many Christians quote this verse, but they don't quote the litmus test that goes with it:
We know that we have passed out of death and into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death... By this we know love: that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:14,16)
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates [i.e., does not love] his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
When disciples are laying down their lives for one another in love, they have confidence from the Holy Spirit4 that they have passed out of death and into life. Therefore, they are outspoken in the gatherings, for that life bubbles out of them continually in thanksgiving and encouragement.5 Obviously, the Apostle Paul expected the churches under his care to be known for the full participation of every disciple:
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
There were no professional preachers, musicians, or choir directors. As Paul told the Ephesians, he also expected this full participation, motivated by love, to characterize their whole lives, whether in the gatherings or not:
Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every aspect [of our personality6] into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Paul's last exhortation to the church in Ephesus was, "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible, undying love."7 Yet less than 40 years later, Yahshua Himself had this to say to that same church: "I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."8 It didn't take long before the corruption set in hard and fast, expressing the incumbency of the Nicolaitan system -- the system that God hates.9
Incumbency is the period during which an office is held. It is a well-known fact of the political process that it is hard to unseat an incumbent office-holder. Once someone attains to a position of power or influence, it can be very difficult to remove him from office. He uses his power and influence to make the people dependent on him. As it is in politics, so it became in the church.
The word Nicolaitan is derived from nikao, meaning "to conquer," and laos, meaning "people," hence, "people conquerors." In the waning years of the first century church, as their love grew cold, most grew silent while leaders rose up and filled the vacuum with their persuasive and eloquent monologues.10 It was just as Paul had warned the Ephesian elders:
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. (Acts 20:29-30)
Already, by the end of the first century, the Nicolaitan system had appeared in Ephesus11 and had made significant headway in Pergamum.12 It was an evil system of Satan that infiltrated the church.13 When the last of the overcomers14 died, there was no longer a way for the Holy Spirit to express Himself.15 Messiah was no longer the head over that house,16 where the common people had lost their love and outspokenness:
But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
The Greek word for confidence means outspokenness, freedom -- even unreservedness of speech. When that outspokenness ceased among the people, according to the Word of God, Christ ceased being the High Priest over that silent house. The result of the conquest of the Nicolaitans is the clergy-laity system, which is a misnomer. "Conquerors of the People" is a more fitting name for this evil religious system.
Nicolaitanism was a doctrine that crept into their midst like an unclean thing from the dark lagoon. It came from the incumbency of those who saw leadership not as the Master had taught (shepherds who daily laid down their life for the sheep17), but as a position to hold. To incubate their self-perpetuating eggs the Nicolaitans led the pew-sitters to sit contentedly (silently) on them until they hatched -- a brood of serpents, just as the leaders of the Jews had been called by John the Baptist.18 To hatch these Nicolaitan eggs took the artificial heat needed to maintain the ideal temperature for the optimal growth and development of bacterial cultures -- lukewarm.19
Incubation is the period of time between the exposure to an infectious disease and the appearance of the symptoms. To sit on eggs is to foster incubation. An incubator is an apparatus kept at uniform warmth. The lukewarm church itself became an incubator for the artificial hatching of the Nicolaitan eggs that Satan laid right before their undiscerning spirits.
This Nicolaitan system was finally inculcated into the church by pressing it on their minds through repetition by frequent lectures and admonitions.20 The churches became accustomed to listening to only one person instead of benefiting from the full participation of each member.21 Under this persuasion, church members became their own prison guards, looking with suspicion on anyone outside the clergy who dared to speak up and express his heart. That's how effective the endless repetitions of the clergy were in thoroughly instilling the new doctrine into their minds.
So the one incumbent Nicolaitan in each church, who had arisen by smooth talk and manipulation,22 tenaciously held onto his office and performed his official duties as an autocrat.23 Diotrephes, whom John the Apostle wrote of in his third letter, set the pattern for centuries to come, putting out of the church any who were a threat to his position:
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10)
Such incumbents encumber the sincere, hindering any action or motion toward godliness. They impose unreasonable burdens, the same heavy weights of outward righteousness for which Yahshua condemned the Pharisees. They bolster their own ego,24 fed by Satan's pride, the very Nicolaitan spirit of self-exaltation that God hates.25
The Kingdom was shut out by the encumbering incumbents,26 and only a few overcomers were left,27 and they were probably put out of the church. The teachings of the Nicolaitans became an incurable deadly disease that killed the first church, spreading like gangrene or cancer, incurable, with no hope of reformation.28 The unending incumbency of these men, filled with the devouring spirit of the evil one himself, snuffed out the light of the world. Then came Constantine to merge the church with the state when the fallen church was ripe for the picking.
The people were silenced due to the overwhelming insurgency29 of the incumbent Nicolaitans, Satan's servants.30 This ecclesiastical system was received by a passive laity due to the persuasion of the incumbent "office holders" -- the clergy in their black robes. All authority in the church fell to them by default through the failure of the many to accept the responsibility of their priesthood. Due to the general lack of wisdom, understanding, discernment, insight, discretion, and faithfulness to pray to be delivered from evil,31 the church was taken captive. None who joined from that time on received the Holy Spirit, but all the while they claimed to see.32
They could memorize John 5:24 quite well, and were mesmerized by John 3:16, but were strangely unconcerned with 1 John 3:16. Therefore, the kind of believing that resulted in Acts 2:44 was out of the question. (Yet Acts 2:44 remains the standard for all generations for all who believe with the kind of belief that John 3:16 is speaking of.)
So by the second century, James was regarded by them as the insurgent one, since he had the audacity to write to the church, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"33
Nightfall descended upon the true way to life, and truly, as the Savior said, no man could do the works of God.34 This dead faith and the fallen incumbency, which has held the reigns of power for almost 1900 years, have been inseparable. Very early, the church left behind their roots in the ancient Hebrew faith35 and the Jerusalem pattern of full participation in a life together, sharing all things in common.36 They even abandoned the original Hebrew name of the Messiah, Yahshua, meaning "Yahweh's Salvation." Instead, they adopted the Greek name Iesous Christos and became known as Christianity, characterized by a professional clergy and a largely passive laity. Little or no participation or accountability was required of its members beyond their attendance and tithes, and their assent to a doctrinal creed. The resulting rampant hypocrisy grieves the few who still long for the vibrant life of the first-century church.
But there is Good News! That life is sprouting again on the earth! Anyone who is willing to do God's will can become a full participant in the way of life of our good King, Yahshua, the Messiah. It is a life based not on doctrine but on love, following the ancient pattern of the early church. We invite you to overthrow the incumbency of dead religion in your own life and join the true commonwealth of Israel, God's holy nation.37 Here everyone has a voice and a vocation to give their all in building up the witness of the coming Kingdom38 as a foretaste of the age to come. This will actually bring about the end of this wicked age and the return of the Messiah to establish His Kingdom on earth.39