Regarding The church of Ephesus:
6* “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
To the church at Pergamum:
15* “So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
These are the only two references to the Nicolaitans we have in the bible.
There is speculation about them based upon the etymology of the words used to make the name.
The first part of the name ” nico” comes from the Greek word which means “to conquer”The second part of the name “laitans” comes from the Greek word meaning “people.” Hence, the speculation is that they were a group of people who enslaved others in someway.
Another thought is that the Nicolaitans were followers of a man named Nicholas. This has been offered in much the same way we refer to followers of a certain individual. For example, those who follow Christ are called Christians and hold to His teachings. However, no suggestion of this individual is given and is purely speculation.
The etymology is probably more in keeping with the overall nature of the Revelation. The writing is highly figurative so such would fit the character of the book. In this light, we would view the teaching of the Nicolaitans as any teaching that would enslave others to false teaching. This warning is certainly valid throughout Scripture!
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
Rather than referring to a particular group of people, it most likely refers to a form of teaching opposing the truth of God’s Word.
FROM International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. nik-o-la’-i-tanz Nikolaitai): – The Sect:
A sect or party of evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (Re 2:14,15). Their practices were strongly condemned by John, who praised the church in Ephesus for “hating their works” (Re 2:6), and blamed the church in Pergamum for accepting in some measure their teaching (Re 2:15). Except that reference is probably made to their influence in the church at Thyatira also, where their leader was “the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess” (Re 2:20; compare 2:14), no further direct information regarding them is given in Scripture.
Reference to them is frequent in post-apostolic literature. According to Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., i.26,3; iii.10,7), followed by Hippolytus (Philos., vii.36), they were founded by Nicolaus, the proselyte of Antioch, who was one of the seven chosen to serve at the tables (Ac 6:5). Irenaeus, as also Clement of Alexandria (Strom., ii.20), Tertullian and others, unite in condemning their practices in terms similar to those of John; and reference is also made to their Gnostic tendencies. In explanation of the apparent incongruity of such an immoral sect being founded by one of “good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (compare Ac 6:3), Simcox argues that their lapse may have been due to reaction from original principles of a too rigid asceticism. A theory, started in comparatively modern times, and based in part on the similarity of meaning of the Greek “Nikolaus,” and the Hebrew “Balaam,” puts forward the view that the two sects referred to under these names were in reality identical. Yet if this were so, it would not have been necessary for John to designate them separately.