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Bruce Bertram of The Word of God Ministries and http://www.wholebible.com delves into the letters to the seven congregations of Revelation 1 through 3. This first video gives some background and church history like you've probably never heard it before. From the resurrection of our Messiah to about 325 A.D. Jesus believers were under persecution from both Jews and Gentiles, especially because the Jesus believers were caught up in the rebellions of the Jews against the Romans.
Why did believers get persecuted along with the Jews? Because in every way the believers were following the Torah or what is now known as the Old Testament. It was difficult to tell the Jews apart from the believers because they followed the same holidays, ate the same food, and even sacrificed at the temple (while it was still around). As the believers (Jew and Gentile) increased, factions developed. One of these were the power-grabbers we think were the Nicolaitans. They wanted to control the believers (or "rule over the laity") often from good motives (such as stamping out heretical doctrine) but as time when on more often from just wanting to rule. Much like the rabbis in Judaism, eventually these Nicolaitans (priests, popes, bishops, and so on) got the control they desired. A big victory for the Nicolaitans was achieved when Constantine in 325 A.D. made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. This we can call the birth of the church.