Unveiling the Bridal Paradigm and the Song of Solomon Theology: Understanding the Marriage Covenant Christ Has with His Church
Appointed Time Ministries maintains the teaching that Christ is our Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride. There have been questions by many about Mike Bickle’s “Song of Solomon Theology” and his “bridal paradigm”, with the assumption that we support it and/or endorse it. As a ministry whose core mission is to prepare the Bride of Christ for His return, it is expedient that we make a clear and official statement with regard to this speculation and assumption, and clarify sound biblical doctrine in this area. This post is written for the sole purpose of alleviating confusion, preventing deception, and clarifying our stance on this particular doctrine. Therefore, we openly state the following:
Appointed Time Ministries maintains that IHOP is an extraordinarily dangerous cult.
We have not, we do not, nor will we ever, endorse or support IHOP or their doctrines and theologies.
Furthermore, we strongly advise those who have loved ones involved with IHOP to seek immediate help.
If, after reading this post, you have further questions, you are welcome to contact us. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Unveiling the Bridal Paradigm and the Song of Solomon Theology
The marital covenant between Christ and His Church has fascinated believers for centuries — ever since the inception of the Gospel message. When Mike Bickle coined the term ‘bridal paradigm’ in 1988 and introduced the Song of Solomon theology upon which it is centered, it exploded throughout the Church on a global scale that is unprecedented. It has sparked and fueled movements and revivals of many kinds. In this post we’re going to unveil that ‘bridal paradigm’ and its Song of Solomon theology according to scripture, Hebraic culture, and Jewish tradition with the intent and objective of restoring biblical clarity and accuracy.
Across the spectrum of denominations and theologies, the ‘bridal paradigm’ has long been presented from the pulpit with diverse views. From Catholicism to the Charismatic movement, the biblical spectrum is quite large. With that said, there is scriptural truth that must be sought, clarified and maintained. As believers we have an obligation to understand what the scriptures specifically teach, and how to avoid against the increasing deception as the return of Christ draws near.
Christ desperately wants His Church to understand the reality of His role as our Bridegroom, the marriage covenant He has instituted, and how that covenant will be consummated. By the end of this post it is my prayer that you will properly understand the truth of Christ’s relationship to His Church with respect to His role as our Bridegroom, and our role as His bride.
In this post we’re going to take the whole Word of God into account, from Genesis to Revelation. No doubt, that is a daring and lengthy scriptural excursion. Because of space and time, I will reference key scriptures for you, while directly quoting those that are central to theological discussion. In light of a thorough discourse, you will need to excavate those scriptures independently for yourself.
We will address the following central aspects of this teaching (and much more):
1.) God’s relation to Israel as Husband; her harlotry, and His redemptive plan
2.) Christ’s relation to His Church (Jew and Gentile) as a Bridegroom
3.) The Hebraic tradition of betrothal and marriage
4.) The consummation of Christ’s marriage covenant with His Church
5.) The Song of Solomon theology
Appointed Time Ministries embraces the scriptural teaching of Christ and the apostles and prophets, with respect to His marriage covenant with His Church. That is the scriptural platform from which this post will be written. In stark contrast, Bickle’s paradigm presents a romanticized theology which focuses on Christ as a “man”, in which the Song of Solomon theology he has crafted becomes central. This theology is seductive, sensual, even sexual, and overtly heretical, which has been the source for much confusion, deception, and bondage in the Church (which we will talk about later).
If you have questioned or doubted the bridal paradigm, or have perhaps wrestled with parts of this theology, that is very understandable. This post will endeavor to answer and sort out those contested areas with biblical clarity. Aside from prophetic fulfillment, Hebraic tradition helps to reveal much of the mystery. Of course, this goes back to understanding our Hebraic roots, which many Christians may have little or no knowledge. Apart from Jewish tradition, a proper understanding Christ’s marriage covenant absolutely cannot be achieved, and therefore, it is imperative that the Hebraic traditions be discussed wholly in light of scripture.
This will be a long post, and one that is very worthy of your time. If you or someone you love has been involved with the ‘bridal paradigm’ I pray you read this post and share it accordingly. By the end you should have a very clear and accurate understanding of Christ as our Bridegroom, and the marriage covenant He’s instituted with His Church. You will be well-equipped to both support or contest any argument.
A Correction of Terms
The term ‘paradigm’, with respect to Christ and His bride, is sadly inaccurate. A paradigm, by definition, is a collection of ideas that speak to a common theme. Those ideas could be presented in many forms. As we will find, scripture does not present Christ and His role as a Bridegroom as an idea. Nor is it what some may term an ‘allegory’. His role as our Bridegroom and the marital covenant He has instituted is a spiritual reality that is very literal. The covenant He has instituted with His Church is specifically one of marriage, which will be consummated at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Not only was this marriage covenant prophesied in the Old Covenant, but Christ taught it throughout His parables during His earthly ministry. Finally, we see it fulfilled in Revelation at the end of the age. As we will see and learn, Christ has consistently demonstrated Himself as our eternal Bridegroom according to Jewish custom as the Gospel story unfolds.
Although there are poetic metaphors and similies throughout scripture (old and new covenant alike), the specific role of Christ and His demonstrations toward the fulfillment of this marriage covenant are very literal.
What is a Bridegroom?
This is where our curiosities often begin.
Throughout the New Covenant Christ referenced Himself as our “bridegroom” (see Matthew 9:15 and 25:1). And He told several parables and gave many admonitions toward His role and our corresponding relationship to Him. But what does that mean? For most in the twenty-first century, the term “bridegroom” is a bit archaic. Not many are able to articulate the meaning, and rightly so. Therefore, it begs to be defined.
Surprisingly, the term “bridegroom” is only mentioned in scripture a total of twenty times: eight in the Old Covenant, and twelve in the New Covenant. However, this term alone is not sufficient to prove the marital covenant between Christ and His Church. There are many other terms which clearly reveal this reality; some of which may not be so obvious.
In the Old Covenant the Hebrew word bridegroom is chathan (khaw-thawn’) which means “son-in-law, daughter’s husband, bridegroom, husband”. It refers to one who is a relative by marriage, specifically through the bride (Strong’s, Thayer).
In the New Covenant the Greek word for bridegroom is numphios (noom-fee’-os), which very simply means ‘bridegroom’. It refers specifically to the male, and is a masculine noun.
Oddly, the first time the word “bridegroom” appears is not in the Torah, but in the Psalms (see Psalm 19:1-6), which describes the sun rising in the east as a strong man who runs a race, from which no one can escape. Does this sound familiar? That poetic simile is very applicable to the details surrounding the return of Christ. He will come in the clouds of heaven, even as lightning from east to west (Matthew 24:27). Every eye will see Him. No one will escape. As for the “strong man”? No doubt, Christ trumps them all. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords who will bring judgment upon the living and the dead.
Strangely, the word “bridegroom” is not revealed in the Song of Solomon.
As for now, we jump to the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Joel. In nearly every verse mentioned, the blessing of God upon Israel, and His affection for her is associated with or likened to the bridegroom and his bride. These references are allegorical. These are similes and metaphors. The bridegroom’s voice is heard as he comes forth out of his chamber into the city streets. What does this mean? Again, this is linked to Hebraic culture and tradition. The most notable verse in context is found in Isaiah 62:5, which says:
For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as a bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee,” (KJV).
There are few celebrations more joyous than a marriage. And there is no covenant between two people that is as binding as the marriage covenant. The application here is obvious: There is no question about how God feels for His covenant nation, Israel; nor are there questions about His covenant intentions toward her. This dialogue does not begin in the New Covenant. It begins in the Old. David alludes to it in poetic similes that point us to Christ such as in Psalm chapter 2. The prophet Isaiah speaks clearly in a metaphor that reveals God’s heart for Israel, which the prophets Jeremiah and Joel echo expressly. This prophetic validation found in scripture is where God’s Word is confirmed by two or three witnesses. And although the word bridegroom does not appear in Revelation and Christ does not directly announce Himself as such, the recognition of Christ in this regard is unmistakable (see Revelation 21:1-27 and 22:17).
This is where context becomes vital to understanding the scriptural relevance as it relates to Christ and His Church. Marriage bookends the entire Bible — from Genesis to Revelation. The marriage covenant was instituted by God to achieve oneness. That oneness is unique to the marriage relationship. No other relationship God created has this potential either physically or spiritually. However, the dynamic which achieves oneness within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman are very different from those which achieve oneness between God and man. Therefore, let us understand that the marriage covenant Christ has instituted with His Church is centered upon the principle of becoming one with Him. We will find that the manner in which He achieves this has nothing to do with sexual intercourse. On the contrary, it comes only by the covenant of His blood and the infilling of His Spirit. During His high priestly prayer, Christ prays specifically for this covenant oneness in John 17, which is shared not only between the Godhead, but among all believers.
Just as there are literal meanings that are spiritual heavyweights, there are also scriptural nuances throughout Christ’s parables which He uses to make very clear, strategic, and valid points regarding His Church. Let’s discuss a few which are key.
To Know and Be Known
One of the most renown and revealing parables Christ ever told was that of the marriage supper (see Matthew 22:1-14). In this context, He gives a clear indication toward His purpose and the eternal consummate plan of God. We see it again in Revelation 19:1 – 22:21 when it officially comes to pass. The rendering is one which contrasts faithfulness and infidelity; the chosen remnant (which he says are few) against those who are finally cast out. This is not the only bridegroom parable that follows this pattern. The parable of the ten virgins (see Matthew 25:1-13), which reveals the heart of the bride, has as sobering end for those who were not ready. There are those who are wise and ready which are welcomed. And there are the foolish and lazy, which were again cast out to which Christ says, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not,” (Matthew 25:12).
These parables speak of Christ ‘knowing’ his Bride – His elect. The Greek word for “know” is eido (I’-do). This knowing is one that indicates a clear understanding, knowledge, and perception of another. This kind of knowing is only possible through intimacy with Him. There is a revealing, a candor, and a transparency that allows Him to see and discover, and ultimately find out those things we would otherwise wish to hide. The bride becomes unveiled in this knowing. We return to our covenant nakedness in which there is no longer any shame (see Isaiah 52 and Genesis 2:23-25). His blood becomes our sole covering.
This intimacy of ‘knowing’ is not unique or new to the bridegroom parables. It was initiated in the garden of Eden when Adam took his wife, Eve.
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD,” (Genesis 4:1, KJV).
Interesting that Eve did not credit that gain immediately to Adam. She recognized her conception as coming from her Creator and eternal Husband, who was God – the Father of all creation. Yet the ‘knowing’ spoken of in this verse clearly intimates the sexual union between Adam and Eve, who were man and wife. The word “knew” (yada’, phonetic yaw-dah’) is the Hebrew equivalent to the Greek word found in Christ’s parables. It speaks of intimate revelation which grants an intimate knowledge; an unveiling; a transparency by which we are fully known, perceived and understood by another.
It is from this premise that Christ declares:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” (Matthew 7:21-23, KJV).
The word for “knew” here in Matthew 7:23 is the Greek word “ginosko” (ghin-oce’-ko), which means to know with absolution through knowledge, perception, and understanding. Interestingly, this is the same word used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse. Did Christ make a mistake? No — absolutely not. Clearly, the level of intimacy inherent to our covenant relationship with Christ is now being defined by Him. The ‘knowing’ Christ speaks of here is only possible within the covenant bond of oneness — and that oneness is exclusive to marriage. This manner of knowing is what accompanies genuine salvation. In the same way we are to be known by Him, He invites us to know Him as well. Paul speaks to this knowing in Philippians:
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead,” (Philippians 3:7-11, KJV).
In like manner David speaks of this intimate knowing in Psalm 139, which is reciprocated with an invitation for God to search him and know him. This intimacy, transparency and nakedness is something Adam and Eve enjoyed with one another and with God. There were no barriers. When sin came, we see the immediate effects of shame and guilt and subsequent hiding from God, which is directly contrary to the intimacy and oneness He longs to establish in our relationship with Him.
Through Christ that oneness was fully repaired. The breach of sin, bringing shame and separation, was completely destroyed. Christ’s redemption, above all things, restored us to covenant oneness with God — which is revealed in the covenant of marriage which He instituted.
It is no surprise that Christ teaches that those in heaven will not marry or be given in marriage — and for one very simple reason: We will already be married – to Him alone and no other (see Mark 12:25). The bride of Christ, therefore, is not a singular person, but the consummate Body of believers who are in covenant oneness with Him and also with each other. This is most accurately revealed in Christ’s High Priestly prayer in John 17. According to these prayers, we see a remarkable and miraculous unity and oneness achieved between the Godhead and the global Body of believers through Christ’s sacrifice, which is mirrored for us in the covenant of marriage (see Ephesians 5:20-33).
The Marriage Covenant
Marriage, which is God’s cornerstone for society, began in the garden of Eden.
Again, it’s a covenant relationship of oneness that is to be honored above every other relationship known to man. It is the only relationship God does not permit us to break or leave. Adultery is not permitted, and God hates divorce. Therefore, let us understand the sacred design: Marriage is intended to be permanent. It holds extraordinary power in the ability to create new life by which eternal souls are born. In this way, two people very literally become one flesh. The sexual bond is the only way a marriage can be consummated before God. Therefore, sexual intercourse is reserved strictly for the marriage covenant. The inherent power it holds between a man and woman has distinct purpose – it binds two together in making them one. That intercourse binds the soul and body of two people. they are no longer two, but one.
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” (Matthew 19:4-6, KJV).
The marriage covenant has always been a type and shadow of God’s relationship with His people. The Apostle Paul refers to it as “a great mystery” (see Ephesians 5:32). With that said, where the bridegroom’s voice is heard, and where marriage is consummated and celebrated is often synonymous with God’s blessing upon His people. This is the first blessing God gave to Adam and Eve: to go forth and subdue the earth; to be fruitful and multiply. On God’s terms – that could not happen apart from marriage. In the same manner, where the voice of bridegroom is absent, this is often synonymous with judgment or a curse. This indicates a neglect of the marriage covenant and a subsequent lack of fidelity (both moral and spiritual). This curse is not new. It’s one that is found in Deuteronomy 28 in which the godly seed ceases or is taken captive, but is most notable in God’s final judgment when His wrath is executed upon the whore in Revelation 18.
God refers to Himself as Israel’s Husband in the Old Covenant on numerous accounts. Christ also refers to His Father as the ‘husbandman’ who cares for the branches within the True Vine (see John 15). That is distinctly New Covenant. God’s role did not change. So let us properly understand that a husband is more than one who takes a bride or wife. A husband is one who assumes the sole responsibility for the loving and sacrificial care, nourishment, and growth of another (again, see Paul’s reference in Ephesians 5:20-32). (For more on understanding the covenant role of a husband, please read my post, The High Call of Husbandry: A Noble Aspiration).
God uses the metaphor of a bridegroom to reveal His heart for Israel. In Ezekiel 16 God redeems Israel as a squalling babe who is found writhing in her own blood, naked and vulnerable. God took pity upon Israel and nourished her into adulthood with the intent of grooming her as a bride whom He would adorn for Himself. When she was of age and at her time for love, Israel was betrothed to God alone – no other. Yet Israel betrayed Him with idolatrous acts, which God termed “adultery”, “whoredom”, and “harlotry”. These vile acts of pagan Baal worship plunged her into divorce and subsequent judgment. The covenant oneness between Israel and God were broken. The grief expressed in God’s heart over this tragedy is repeated throughout the prophets who desperately make a case for Israel to return to Him. God pleads with her, woos her, and implores her with His covenant love and glorious eternal promises.
This divine romance is most succinctly revealed through the life of the prophet Hosea, whom God commands to marry a harlot. Hosea’s life played out the long-standing idolatry of Israel and the faithfulness of God toward her. This grievous covenant-breaking sin, which He terms adultery and harlotry, was something He earnestly desired to forgive and heal. He longed to renew covenant with Israel, making it clear that His terms were everlasting (see Jeremiah 31:3 and Isaiah 61:8). He never forsook Israel despite His righteous punishment and anger, which He was obligated to serve. Despite her unfaithfulness to Him, He remained faithful. Hosea portrays this reality in a prophetic act; in a prophetic lifestyle that reveals the faithfulness of God toward a bride who is hell-bent on adultery.
This marital relationship between God and Israel is a poetic scriptural dance that ebbs and flows throughout the Old Covenant repeatedly. Israel would many times cry out to God, and He would faithfully answer in bringing her deliverance – only to watch her return to the mire of spiritual infidelity from which she was rescued. Israel’s lust for other nations, their wealth, their acceptance, and their foreign gods put Israel in grave danger. God called Israel “sick”. His opening statement in Isaiah was this:
Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint,” (Isaiah 1:5, KJV).
This pattern had to be broken. There had to be a solution; a remedy that was permanent and eternal. God revealed the plan through Isaiah in that He would send His beloved, who would redeem not only Israel, but the entire world. The covenant promised to David would finally come to pass. And after a long poetic and prophetic plea, the book of Isaiah ends with this promise:
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD,” (Isaiah 66:22-23, KJV).
This promise was to include not only Israel, through whom the Messiah would come — but the entire world. In Deuteronomy God’s covenant expressly forbade Israel to intermarry with foreigners who served other gods, warning them that they would be taken captive, defiled, and led astray. In this command, we again see the marriage covenant being established as the cornerstone for Israel’s survival. Israel did not obey this command, and the outcome God warned about is precisely what transpired. They were taken captive, defiled, and led astray — the most notable being their captivity in Babylon for seventy years. Again, we see this pattern of infidelity and adultery framed within the marriage covenant, in which God is revealed as an eternal Husband who has betrothed Israel to Himself, expressing a faithful covenant love to her. Sadly, that love was not reciprocated in kind.
When Christ finally comes, He reveals the heart of God to His people – and He does so by revealing Himself as the Bridegroom (see Matthew 9:15; 25:1-12; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35; and John 3:29). No doubt, this reminder lanced old wounds that Israel found painful to face. They did not recognize or esteem Him as such. Christ was not embraced as God’s beloved. He was shunned and persecuted, being accused of having devils. That is a stark contrast.
This heartbreaking reality reveals the spiritual depth to which Israel’s depravity had truly fallen. Christ wept over Israel, telling her that they would not see Him again until they declare, “Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord,” (see Matthew 23:39). That has yet to transpire on a national scale. Yet I dare say we are closer to seeing it happen than ever before in history.
Yet Christ did more than teach bridegroom parables or give strong words of exhortation toward the consummation of His marriage covenant with Israel. He fulfilled the marriage covenant through His life, death, burial and resurrection. The beauty of Christ is that He not only fulfills the Father’s prophetic promise by which He would betroth Israel again to Himself, but He does so by following the Hebraic tradition of marriage to which any Jewish Bridegroom would be obligated and beholden.
This pattern was well-understood among Orthodox Jews. He made it unmistakably apparent. The covenant Christ would establish would redeem all of mankind from their eternal separation from God, restoring the covenant oneness we had with Him in the beginning.
The Hebraic Tradition
Paul, who was an expert in Jewish law; being a Pharisee of Pharisees (see Philippians 3:5) said this with regard to the marriage covenant of Christ and His Church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church,” (Ephesians 5:30-32, KJV).
For those who do not understand the Hebraic tradition (which Paul did) understanding much of what Christ accomplished, is simply lost. Let’s remedy that today so we can have a fuller appreciation of what He performed.
First, we must understand marriage, and how it transpires within the Jewish culture. This is something Western culture is not privy to understanding, leaving huge gaps in our Christian faith, which we often attempt to fill with our own assumptions and speculations, which are sadly inaccurate.
For the Jew, the covenant of marriage is the cornerstone of society. To decline or shun marriage was not looked upon favorably, and to do so was considered a type of ‘abandonment’ of moral duty. Rabbis considered it unholy and unnatural to shun marriage. This explains why the Apostle Paul had to make such a strong case for his celibacy in 1 Corinthians chapter 7.
Marriage, in Jewish society, is at the pinnacle of any civil celebration. It is wholly sanctified, honored, and pursued. Contrary to popular belief, the primary purpose of marriage was to provide the necessary love and companionship for a healthy and prosperous life. Surprisingly, the necessary procreation for the surviving and thriving of society came second, as children were not always promised or guaranteed. This Jewish belief is best upheld by the book Song of Solomon, which celebrates marital love and the sexual union explicitly. Although marriages were often arranged, the belief in a “bashert” (soul mate) is uniquely Jewish. The bashert is one that fulfills each other’s destiny. Throughout the scriptures, marriage is sought, honored, and esteemed with such notorious arguments as this:
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, KJV).
And such admonitions as this:
Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,” (Hebrews 13:5, KJV).
Marital love, created by God, is unique to any other. God intended that healthy marriages be vibrant with passion. That joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction is clearly expressed in Song of Solomon. The following verse, heralded among Jews at weddings, describes marital love succinctly:
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned,” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7, KJV).
These poetic verses reveal the transcendent glory, passion, and unyielding devotion and undying fidelity with which God created marital love. It is understood, then, that marriage is for love — and not merely procreation.
Traditionally marriages began very young, at the peak of puberty when a genuine interest in the opposite sex was in full bloom, and when the ability to procreate was possible. Families prepared for the marriage of their sons and daughters from the time their infants were born. Arrangements were made that would seem favorable for both families, extending the tribal lineage and providing economic wealth. Although romantic love was pursued, honored and appreciated, it was not mandatory. Regardless of love being found, in due time one was expected to marry, and that made an arranged marriage obligatory. Such planning was diligent.
In Jewish society, there is no greater civil celebration than marriage. It is so highly regarded that the entire city or community would be invited (which is seen in Christ’s parable and also in the wedding of Cana where He attended). Traditionally, the marriage feast lasted seven days. The eighth day was set apart solely for the bridegroom and bride. The marriage in Cana of Galilee gives evidence to this tradition, revealing why the angst of running out of wine so early was such a tragedy, which Christ’s mother understood and sought to repair. However, let it be known that as much as marriage was celebrated publicly, it did not require a religious or civil officiate to become legally recognized. In fact, marriage is one of the easiest covenants to enact before God. He makes it extraordinarily simple and easy to do. We are the ones who make it difficult and elaborate.
According to God’s law, marriage is officiated in one of three ways: through money, a written contract, or sexual intercourse. God honors all three. However, in the perfection of His creation we clearly see His preference. He set a precedent (prior to the law) by which marriage is officiated – and that is merely by sexual intercourse as demonstrated through Adam and Eve. Sexual intercourse is sacred before God. It is the consummate covenant act by which marriage is officiated before Him. God honors this in His law, and demands that we honor it as well. With that said, marriage did not require a rabbi or civil official, which is why the breaking of such a covenant was worthy of death. Although this private ceremony was not widely practiced, such decisions were lawful and honored. And those who made such choices did so with full knowledge, ready will, and clear intent. They understood their lawful obligations, both to God and to each other. This is why Christ says the following:
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” (Matthew 10:9, KJV).
Let it be clear: only God can join two people in marriage. Man can do no more than witness it. The right to marry is God-given. It is a moral, civil, and spiritual liberty that must be upheld and honored in all (Hebrews 13:5). However, that scriptural truth is not currently practiced, as civil courts now have laws governing marriage by which society must abide, and churches have ceremonies which must be officiated. However, before the court of heaven, nothing more than the mutual private vows and the consummate sexual act of the consenting couple are necessary for God to officiate any union. What was understood for so long in Jewish tradition, is today very misunderstood by the modern Church. Because the marital covenant and sexual union is not appropriately taught, this lends to a plethora of sexual transgression. Sadly, sex is often regarded in the light of sin and fornication instead of being celebrated as the one sacred covenant act designed and honored by God by which marriage is officiated. The marriage bed is indeed undefiled (see Hebrews 13:5). Yet this is no trite matter. God’s penalties for sexual immorality are stiff. Stoning and death were considered just and lawful punishments under the Law of Moses. In the new covenant, these sins speak to defilement and condemnation when there is no repentance (see Revelation 2:20-23 and 21:8).
Before marriage can (or should) be consummated, there is traditionally an engagement period whereby the couple enter into an official courtship, which is exclusive. This is the period when terms of marriage are considered – either being agreed upon, or refused. During this time, the father and mother of the man and woman were intimately involved. Courtship, therefore, was an intimate family affair. During this time the bridegroom would come with His Father and knock on the bride’s door, and if she answered, this signaled that she wanted to marry and enter into covenant. But if she declined to answer, the bridegroom would leave and it would be understood that the offer he had made was rejected. He was not obligated to come back or ask again. If she answered, the father and son would come in and dine with the bride and her family. This could happen several times, and each time the bridegroom came there was greater depth to the agreed covenant. We see this pattern in Christ’s letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3:20.
It is here, in this specific aspect, that Christ’s fulfillment of His Father’s covenant as our Bridegroom becomes so dear to us, and in which the Hebraic tradition enlightens us. His Father was intimately involved in all the plans for the betrothal ceremony known as the kiddushin, whereby the bride is consecrated and sanctified unto her bridegroom.
As for marriage, it happens in two stages: (1) kiddushin (betrothal) and (2) nisuin (marriage). Both are legally binding and cannot be broken except by death or divorce.
Kiddushin or Betrothal (Sanctification or Dedication)
See Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 14-21
The Church has already entered into the portion of marriage known as the kiddushin. As the Apostle Paul says:
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ, (2 Corinthians 11:2, KJV).
The kiddushin exceeds the bond of what we commonly know as an “engagement” in western culture. The kiddushin is “one soul in two bodies”, which fulfills the mitzvah (divine precept). There is one soul, but the couple is not yet one flesh. This is where the woman legally becomes the wife of one man, which can only be dissolved by death or divorce. She is wholly consecrated to her husband. The bridegroom takes a cup of wine which is offered to the bride. This cup represents his lifeblood that he is willing to shed for her. This cup is one of covenant by which the betrothal is legalized. If she accepts the cup, she accepts the terms of the marriage outlined by each family and her husband in the ketubah, which is a legal contract he has written for her. The ketubah delineates the covenant of the marriage and any liabilities if it is broken.
However, the spouses do not live together at this time, nor are they allowed to touch or have sexual relations, and the obligations of marriage do not take effect until the term of the kiddushin is complete. That term is determined by the bridegroom’s father. Mary and Joseph are perfect examples of two people bound by kiddushin. The period of kiddushin lasted approximately one year, during which time the bridegroom would prepare a home or house for his bride and their future family. That home had to pass inspection by the bridegroom’s father, otherwise he was not permitted to get his bride. During this time apart, the bride and groom rarely saw one another. They spoke through family. There may even be a great distance between them geographically.
The bride was also eagerly preparing, as she never knew when her bridegroom would come. The bride’s family was busy preparing her dowry, her dress, and her linens; those specifically obligated for the bedroom and other wedding garments, as the wedding feast lasted eight days total.
The Nisuin (Consummate Marriage)
See Matthew 24, 25:1-13 and Revelation 19-22
The nisuin is what we consider the consummate marriage wherein the public ceremony is celebrated and sexual relations begin. Where the kiddushin requires distance and separation, the nisuin requires intimacy and consummation. The ceremony lasted seven days and the eighth day would be set apart for the bridegroom and his bride in which they would begin their new life together. We see this represented in the Feast of Tabernacles.
Traditionally, the bridegroom would come at night, sometime after midnight when the bride and her family would sleep. He would take the town with him, or perhaps members of his own tribe or family. Down the street they would come with torches, celebratory shouts, songs, trumpets, and fanfare, calling to the bride. Such a scene could not be missed. No one escaped it.
Therefore, it was common that the bride lay awake at night. She would feign sleep. Her lamp did not go out. She would always be found ready for her bridegroom when he came for her, to take her into the house he had so diligently and lovingly prepared for them to dwell within. They would finally tabernacle together.
When the bride came out, she would be fully dressed in her wedding garments. They would meet, and the ceremony would begin. But she had to be found ready…
If she was not found ready, she put her bridegroom to public shame. At this time, the bridegroom, if he chose, could deny her rightful entry into His home, and the marriage would not be consummated.
We see this picture and the anticipation so elaborately painted for us in the following verses:
The voice of my beloved! Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone… Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not,” (Song of Solomon 2:8, 10-11, 17 and 3:1, KJV).
I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night,” (Song of Solomon 5:2, KJV).
Christ speaks of our Nisuin with Him in Matthew 24:29-31 and John 14:2-3, and we finally see it prophetically transpire in Revelation 19:1-21. We see the consummation of our marriage with Christ (the marriage supper of the Lamb) in the 21st chapter of Revelation when the Feast of Tabernacles is fully fulfilled.
The Song of Solomon Theology
The book Song of Solomon (otherwise known as the Song of Songs) is one of the most unique books in the holy canon. Strangely, it does not mention God. It gracefully and poetically walks us through the bonds of courtship, marital love, and the sexual union (covenant). Its poetic candor reveals the glory, joy and fulfillment marital love brings. Traditionally this book was forbidden to be read until the marriage due to its strong sexual content, which is very colorfully portrayed through various similes and metaphors. However, the poetry in Song of Solomon is not unique to the Bible. Many other books are written in kind such as the Psalms and even portions of Isaiah, by which God speaks to His people in a love language all His own. In contrast to these, the Song of Solomon stands alone – there is no other book like it – merely because of its graphic yet celebratory content.
In recent years the Song of Solomon has been used to theologically and prophetically reveal the ‘bridal paradigm’, as coined by Mike Bickle of The International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Many – not a few – support this theology which since the late 1980’s has circulated widely within the global Church. And although the Church at large may be accepting of such, Jewish orthodoxy and tradition are not.
SPIRITUAL PERVERSION & IDENTIFYING FALSE CHRISTS
This is where the proverbial wheels fall off. Such teaching is completely out of bounds scripturally, and is very dangerous. Let’s reveal why.
Christ, nor His Apostles, ever once referenced the Song of Solomon in their teaching of the Bridegroom and the marriage covenant Christ fulfilled. And although Christ as our Bridegroom was a central element to the Gospel message – the Song of Solomon is entirely absent.
The problem with adapting a theology from the Song of Solomon is that the book is taken out of context in accordance with its original intent and purpose. That is a clear perversion of scripture. The Song of Solomon is NOT a prophetic book. It was never written as a revelation of Christ, or as a standard for the marriage covenant He would fulfill. On the contrary, attempting to use this book as such is heretical. To arrive at deep theological conclusions based on the poetic verses that clearly elaborate upon marital love and sexual union are perverse at best, and heretical at worst. The dangers of Bickle’s teaching focus on Jesus as a man who is our Lover, in which there is worship with strong sexual overtones. The Song of Solomon theology becomes the center for the believer’s relationship with Christ, and thereby the axis of their walk is skewed.
As a Kansas City native, I’m very familiar with IHOP and its ‘bridal paradigm’. This teaching is prolific in many charismatic churches — locally and beyond. As such, I have been exposed to this theology both first and second-hand, and I’ve also witnessed the outgrowth of this teaching, which has borne a very seductive, dangerous, and pervasive spiritual deception in the global Church. Wherever this doctrine is preached, people inevitably fall into deception and subsequent demonic bondage. The Song of Solomon theology expanded quickly throughout many Christian circles, encompassing the world through various ministries. Most Christians are at least aware of it, even if they are not practicing it.
The account you’re about to read is not researched, although much has been written about IHOP by many Christians across the spectrum. And I’ve listed “Recommended Reading” below for those who are of interest. On the contrary, this account is my very own. I speak as one who has witnessed these things firsthand. Therefore, please understand, I do not speak to you (the reader) as someone with a misconstrued bias who is an objective third party.
Christ informed us that false christs would come in His name. These are not always in the form of people. In fact, they seldom are. These false christs are spiritual entities who masquerade as angels of light. They can even mimic the Holy Spirit, which is why the Apostles taught us to test the spirits and prove all things (something which is rarely ever done in the charismatic church). I have witnessed this deception firsthand. Christians today are very ready and willing to welcome any spirit that makes them feel good or provides the spiritual strokes they are seeking. When left unchecked that is an open door for the enemy whereby spiritual seduction can readily and effectively operate. Sadly, this false doctrine provides that portal of entry.
The Song of Solomon theology is a very alluring cult theology which operates by a seductive spirit, which is a type of false Christ. This spirit both reveals and seeks to consummate a marital covenant that is a direct insult and affront to the finished work of Christ which we receive solely by faith. It lures people in through the tactics I’ve outlined above. It is one of the greatest deceptions within the Church in our present day. And I caution anyone who would give this theology any attention – except to expose it. If you or someone you love has been involved with this doctrine or theology, I implore you to read on and share this with them.
This doctrine is very alluring to a lot of hurting single people, especially those who are young and vulnerable. The loneliness, insecurity, isolation, and rejection they feel makes it very appealing to them, and these voids are something of which this false christ will readily take advantage. This seductive spirit initially mimics the Holy Spirit. It very much masquerades in what the Apostle Paul defines as an “angel of light” (see 2 Corinthians 11:14). The goal of this false christ is to gain entrance into the soul whereby it creates and magnifies the emotional voids of that specific individual. It capitalizes upon their intimate needs and marital desires while never healing or fulfilling them. Spiritual sensuality is promoted. It offers ‘affectionate strokes’ and other strange manifestations that are very beguiling, yet in reality are nothing more than dangerous demonic traps.
Below, is merely one example among many which I have witnessed.
THE BLACK BRIDE
One story in particular, which I remember, comes from a young woman of 25 years, whom I had met in 2002 at a café. She intrigued me, being clad in black as a tall dark brunette. She was a member of IHOP, and when I had complimented her on her diamond ring, she confessed to having married Jesus. Immediately I sensed an odd presence about her. She was very reserved, yet very proud. I asked how she could possibly marry Jesus when we are already His bride. She explained that she had written a formal contract outlining all the scriptures of the law and prophets, having them recited beneath a chuppah in a formal ceremony performed by the Church and its clergy. This was done with the participation of the Catholic church, which helped to explain her black garments. Her family and friends were present as witnesses. She had purchased the diamond ring (which she wore proudly upon her left hand and was of no small size), and took a name change which she believed God prophetically gave her. This spiritual ceremony became the basis for her relationship with Christ – instead of the work He had already performed upon the cross. His primary role in her life was no longer LORD, but Husband, and He became her literal “husband” in a legal sense. She now had church documents that stated she was a married woman, although she was married to Christ. She described sexual feelings for the “man” Jesus and was extraordinarily arrogant about the status she held with Him in the face of other believers who had not made the same decision. They were not as committed as she. As a result she enjoyed an elevated status at IHOP, and described her intimacy with Him in spiritual terms which had a mysterious depth, yet the emotions provoked produced strong sexual stirrings that could not be rightly met or satisfied.
I found her story to be exceptionally disturbing. And that’s when I made a hasty exit.
Does this surprise you? Does this sound insane? If you answered yes, perhaps that is because it is. This young woman is merely one example among many others whom I have witnessed following this dangerous path in response to the Song of Solomon theology. It’s everywhere, and the spiritual spectrum is quite broad. Her story is one of the most eccentric of any.
SEDUCING SPIRITS & DOCTRINES OF DEMONS
Churches which teach the bridal paradigm from the Song of Solomon platform have slipped into very dangerous territory. A strong seductive spirit operates here, which promotes a heretical belief that either shuns or disregards traditional marriage. Jesus is worshipped as a man who becomes our Lover. He becomes sufficient as our spiritual Husband. This teaching is a gross perversion of the scriptures. I’ve witnessed and heard songs such as “Let Him kiss me,” echoing Song of Solomon 1:2, among many others which are sung in hypnotic seductive rhythms. I’ve heard lyrics that are suggestive of sex with Christ wherein a marital bond is consummated. These musical rhythms and rhymes are no less graphic than their mantras, which use the Song of Solomon to support their perverse spiritual activity. Be careful here. This is where the true blood covenant Christ initiated with His Church is mocked and the depths of Satan are revealed.
In response to this theology, I know several who have refused to marry or have been told they don’t need to although they earnestly desire it, which Paul declares is a doctrine of demons (see 1 Timothy 4:1-4). I’ve also known of others who declare marriage to be “unholy” elevating celibacy above marriage. The pain and deception in this teaching is extraordinarily damaging to the Body of Christ, which cuts off the godly seed from going forth as God intended.
It’s a slick act. As I’ve said many times before, Satan has launched a strategic and successful campaign against marriage. He either destroys them with divorce, or prevents them through deception. This particular ‘campaign’ has been one of the most successful in preventing strong Christian marriages that I’ve ever heard of or seen. It thwarts marriage and elevates celibacy. Most people who embrace the Song of Solomon theology are surprisingly single – and single they remain – regardless of their innate marital desires.
Next in line is the identity crisis. In addition to shunning marriage, some individuals even go so far as to change their names. In fact, changing the God-given birth name has been a common spiritual fad that leadership and congregants alike have participated. This changing of names is one of the darkest moves yet. This seductive spirit goes from initiating a marital covenant to changing an individual’s established identity. That identity is no longer based upon Christ, but upon the name prophetically given. This spirit traps believers, wooing them into a den of spiritual perversion and dark deception that is very difficult to escape. The spiritual bondage associated with these decisions is not only permanent, but very destructive spiritually. Such identity crises are commonly rooted in self-rejection and other unresolved issues of their past, which are too painful and complex to face or resolve. Changing names is often a way of escape for them, in which the individual experiences a very superficial yet false relief of their previous life, identity, and all that is associated with their past.
The cycle operates by magnifying the emotional and sensual needs of the individuals preyed upon. In turn, they become consumed with these elevated needs, which are never satiated, but are rather perpetuated. It keeps them seeking this false christ for a satisfaction that never comes. It’s a spiritual black hole. Once they are sucked in, it consumes and isolates them. In due time, oppression, sexual perversion, and an unhealthy focus on demonic activity will follow, as well as false teaching and prophecy – all which perpetuate this heretical theology under controlling leadership. It also isolates and destroys relationships. I’ve watched it destroy entire churches which were otherwise healthy and thriving. Once the leadership falls prey – everyone is vulnerable. As you can guess, not only is marriage shunned, but God’s authority is questioned as well. Leadership which espouses this doctrine keeps a tight rein on its members. Sound biblical doctrine is often rejected. If leadership is questioned by congregants who reveal truth, they are labeled as rebellious. Their lack of submission is punished. Instead of scripture, esoteric knowledge becomes the primary spiritual diet, which congregants are instructed and encouraged to seek. The solid meat of scripture and doing the will of God are exchanged for the teaching of man and other strange spiritual experiences that are not accurately weighed, tested, or evaluated. The theology is backward: instead of using scripture as the plumbline by which all things are tested and approved, it instead becomes the means to validate those things which were esoterically sought, and is only used when it can conveniently support that particular man-made teaching or principle. It is a gross manipulation of God’s holy word.
Those who are lonely, broken, wounded, rejected, and abused become an especially easy prey for this false christ. Many of them are not married or remain unmarried simply because this theology robs them of any opportunity by thwarting their ability to find a prospective spouse. And spouses are harder to find because young men and women are no longer looking for one another. They’ve been told to marry Jesus instead and that He’s enough. This creates a sect of isolated adults within churches and society. It stops the godly seed from going forth. Period. It breeds deep discontent, sexual frustration, and disrupts societal norms. Those who are closest to the hub of this cultish activity are often young college age students. They are vibrant, passionate, and spiritually energetic. Many are genuine seekers of Christ, yet they are biblically ignorant and illiterate. They are easily lured into this message, which is ultra-sensual and based on esoteric knowledge – which is packaged and marketed to their liking.
As they spiral into this heretical abyss they are also subject to subsequent poverty because they cannot hold a job or relate to societal norms. The deliverance, mental and emotional rehabilitation, and the scriptural teaching and cleansing required to set them free are extraordinary. The demonic strongholds that manifest with this teaching are prolific and dangerous once they are addressed and exposed. They are very seductive and extraordinarily strong. Those who are bound find it hard to relate to others, including God, because their whole understanding of the bible is now filtered through this warped theology. It very literally brainwashes them. It invades everything, becoming the core theme of their entire Christian walk. Once engaged, they are constantly crying out in confession of emptiness, brokenness, thirst, hunger, and other spiritual pangs that are perpetually unrelieved. The spiritual satiation that Christ promises to those who thirst and hunger eludes them.
When the Song of Solomon theology and the spirit promoting it are fully embraced, individuals often fail to hold stable jobs, maintain healthy relationships, and live as productive members of society who can contribute as a mature Christian. Within ten years these college students, who are now grown, have become middle-aged adults with no prospects or viable sustaining careers. They are still dependent upon roommates, subsidies, and are often financially obligated to the ministry that has fed them this heresy. They become owned. Once an age of maturity is reached whereby they are enabled to properly evaluate their life objectively and intelligently, the reality is that their lives have been stolen from them. Those who want to leave this culture find it nearly impossible to escape. This is the perfect example of the blind leading the blind. As Christ declared, they both fall into a ditch. It’s a trap.
In conclusion, the Song of Solomon is NOT a prophetic book. It is a poetic book that celebrates the sacred covenant of marriage and reveals the glorious sexual union between a man and woman. In no way do we endorse it as the means for interpreting or prophesying what Mike Bickel refers to as the ‘bridal paradigm’ of Christ. It is a book of poetry which uniquely reveals the sanctity of the marriage covenant and the beauty it holds.
God has given His people a great gift in the Song of Solomon. It should be used for marriage, and within marriage, to prepare and celebrate it according to its intended scriptural purpose, which traditional Jewish custom teaches.
To transgress the scriptures in such a manner is a violation which incurs not only dangerous deception, but also the subsequent consequence of severe judgment. There is a “strong delusion” that comes with this manner of teaching, which may very well be why those who author it have not yet come to repentance (see 2 Thessalonians 2:11). That is a sobering thought very worthy of consideration.
May all who have taught and embraced this theology, repent and be set free.
Let it be known that although Appointed Time Ministries believes in the marital covenant Christ has established with His Church, we do NOT embrace or endorse the Song of Solomon theology as taught by Mike Bickle. The only theology we embrace or endorse as it relates to Christ and His bride, is that which is taught by CHRIST HIMSELF and His apostles and prophets. The theological perversions found in the Song of Solomon theology are a direct insult and affront to the completed work of Christ, which we receive solely by faith in Him. Anything we add to or take away from that glorious finished work He performed on the cross is utter deception and heresy.
When the Church fully understands Christ’s relationship to us as His Body (see Ephesians 2:11-22 and 5:30), we will be able to cooperate with Him accordingly. He is returning for a pure, spotless bride who is found faithful, wise, and ready (see Epheisans 5:15-27). Sanctification and holiness is what we should be focusing upon — not seducing spiritual strokes. Genuine fellowship with the Holy Spirit will always bring purification, glorifying the Lord and making us more like Christ. He is the one who transforms us into His image.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:15-18, KJV).
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen,” (Revelation 22:12-17 and 20-21, KJV).
Be ready. Be Berean. Test and approve all things — especially the spirits. Hold to the good. Avoid every evil. And may the God of peace sanctify you wholly and keep you unto that Day. And I urge you, if you’re at all involved with IHOP, or know someone who is, please get help and do so very quickly.
Cheers & Shalom,
Image credit: BarbaraALane | Pixabay
Post updated: 11.5.2017
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