REVELATION 2Revelation of Jesus | Revelation of JohnT: REVELATION 2:1-29TO THE SEVEN CHURCHESEPHESUS 2:1-5 FIRST LOVE2:2,6 FALSE APOSTLES AND NICOLAITANSSMYRNA 2:8,9 TRIBULATION, POVERTY, SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN2:10 PERSECUTIONPERGAMOS 2:12,13 THRONE OF SATANANTIPAS2:14 DOCTRINE OF BALAAMNICOLAITANS2:16,17 REPENT, OR ELSETHYATIRA 2:18-20 YOU TOLERATE JEZEBELTHE TRUE CHURCH2:21-23 JEZEBEL’S SICKBED2:24-29 HOLD FAST


2:14 DOCTRINE OF BALAAM

But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14).

The story of Balaam and his attempts to curse the children of Israel is found in Numbers 22-24. As a prophet he knew the voice of God, and God had shown him that he was not to respond to the offer of money from Balak, the king of Moab, who wanted a curse pronounced upon Israel. But Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2Pet. 2:15) and willfully ignored God’s command. Because of God’s protection of His people, Balaam was not able to curse Israel, and instead pronounced a series of blessings.

Disappointed, “Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place” (Numbers 24:25). But apparently on the way home he had a new thought: if the children of Israel could be enticed into sin they would forfeit their divine protection and the Moabites could defeat them. “[Moabite] women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord” (Numbers 31:16). “They (the Moabite women) invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel…and those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Numbers 25:2,3,9). Balaam exploited the spiritual weakness and love of sin of the people of Israel, and enticed them into idolatry for his own personal profit.[1]

This shameful practice entered the church during the Pergamos era when the monks and priests began to exploit the shrines of the saints and their relics for the sake of monetary gain. “The veneration of martyrs and their relics runs back to the middle of the second century…With the conversion of Constantine, however, and the accession to the church of masses of people fresh from heathenism, this reverence largely increased.” By the end of the fourth century the martyrs had become unofficial saints—“they were prayed to as intercessors with God, and as able to protect, heal and aid those who honored them. Special days were dedicated to the saints, and on these days their icons and relics were displayed. The superstitious multitudes were taught to believe that offerings given on these days could secure God’s favor for themselves or their departed loved ones." [2]

Mary and the saints became the friends and advocates of the people, while God the Father and even Jesus were seen as distant and severe. Lavish gifts were given to build shrines to the saints and buy icons of them. Stories of miracles performed by the saints or even by their icons made the common people even more anxious to “buy” access to them.

Along with the worship of the saints there developed reverence for all manner of articles associated, it was believed, with Christ, the Apostles, and the saints. These included pieces of the Cross, articles and bones of the saints, and icons that were reputed to have miraculous healing power. Great value was placed on long and difficult pilgrimages to places where the relics were preserved. The idolatrous tendencies of the masses were exploited to enrich the church and enhance the power and prestige of the bishops and monks who were conservators of the relics and “sacred sites.” Instead of “fleeing from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14), the theologians and church leaders embraced it and exploited it for financial gain. “This Christianity of the second rank [of the masses] had its heartiest supporters in the monks, and it was furthered rather than resisted by the great leaders of the church, certainly after the middle of the fifth century. It undoubtedly made the way from heathenism to Christianity easier for thousands, but it largely heathenized the church itself.”[3] The “Balaam” practices of monks, priests and church leaders encouraged the “spiritual adultery” of idolatry, which became firmly entrenched during this period.

Continue to next section: NICOLAITANS



[1] In the end Balaam did not get to enjoy his ill-gotten gains—Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword” (Num. 31: 8).

[2] Walker p. 147

[3] Ibid