"Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the Nicolaitans' practices, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victorious one, I will give the right to eat from God's paradise tree of life." (Revelation 2.5-7)✞
The word "paradise" has a Persian origin as "a beautiful garden with pleasant meadows, stately trees, and many flowers." "Paradise," therefore, is a serene, beautiful place. The Revelation's garden paradise has direct links to Genesis. Archibald Geikie Brown (1844-1922), a Baptist Minister and Biblical scholar, wrote eloquently of this connection.
"In Genesis, we see the earth created.
In Revelation, we see it passing away.
In Genesis, there is a garden home for human beings.
In Revelation, there is a city, the nation's home.
In Genesis, we see humans driven from the garden and away from the "tree of life."
In Revelation, we see them welcomed back, with the "tree of life" at their disposal."
How wonderful that will be!✞
In Jewish thought, the "tree of life" means human fulfillment. It appears in paradise alongside the "tree of good and evil knowledge." Those who gather around it in heaven enjoy lives free from any need, hunger, corruption, or pain. Proverbs 13.12 explains, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." It means a fulfilled Christian life. Water flows through "paradise," and the trees flourish on either side of the "river of life." Its leaves have a healing quality, and many fruit types feed the faithful.✞
The paradise tree of life is humanity's perfect source. The Jews believed that when the Messiah, the "expected anointed one," comes from God and the new age dawns, the "paradise tree of life" will grow in their midst, and the faithful will eat from it. The Rabbis said that the "tree of life's boughs overshadow paradise." It has five hundred thousand fragrances, and fruit has many pleasant tastes, and everyone is different.✞
We do not precisely know who the "Nicolaitan heretics" were, except for their sexually immoral actions. God seems to hate these heretics for encouraging sexual immorality and participation in pagan practices. Samuel Taylor Marshall (1812-1895), in Miami University, believed, "the name "Nicolaitan" meant 'peoples' conqueror.'" David Chilton, the American reformed scholar (1951-1997), added, "the Greek term for 'Balaam' means 'people destroyer.'" The Old Testament presents Balaam as a diviner, but 2 Peter 2.15 reviles him as a "wicked man." His followers "have left the straight way and wandered off to follow Balaam's way, the son of Bezer, lover of wickedness. But a donkey, a speechless animal, spoke in a human voice, restrained his madness, and rebuked him for his wrongdoing." He refused to curse Israel. Instead, he blessed them even though an angry King Balak of Moab pressured him with a bribe! M. G. Easton (1823-1894), the Biblical scholar, noted in the "Illustrated Bible Dictionary" that "Bezer" meant "Bosor," the father of Balaam.✞
"Nicolaitans" and those "who hold Balaam's teaching" in Revelation 2.14 seem to be the same people. They are intent on destroying God's people and are those who "tolerate the woman Jezebel." In Revelation 2.20, we read that "the Gnostic heretics encourage sexual immorality, and eating food sacrificed to idols." Perhaps these were heretical sects that mixed Christianity and pagan practices like idol worship and sexual immorality. We don't know for sure, but God and the Ephesian church hated them!✞