Question:

Could you explain to me the passage in Zechariah 13 where it talks about the prophets, the idols and the unclean spirit? Because if God removed the unclean spirit, why is the devil still here tempting Christians? And what does "from the land of Israel" mean? Is it actually the place Israel or is it anywhere there's a Christian? And the idols, people still idolize money, right? What are the idols God talks about? And the prophecy one is the most confusing one. Because if it's about when the Messiah came, why did Paul and the believers still prophesied after Jesus went to heaven if they couldn't make prophecies anymore?

What if the "unclean spirit" means, the unclean food or sin?

What if that passage talks about the 1,000 years when Jesus will reigning on earth? The devil will be locked in hell, so it'd explain "remove the unclean spirit." There will be no need for prophecies anymore because everything will be ending already, and if Christ will absolutely reign, there will be no idols. Could it mean this?


Answer:

""In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It shall be in that day," says the LORD of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, 'You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.' And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies. And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive. But he will say, 'I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.'" (Zechariah 13:1-5).

Understanding a prophecy doesn't consist of finding something that you think will fit and then seeing if you can stretch the statements to cover it. You ask if "unclean spirit" could be a reference to unclean food or sin. Such fails because sin will always be a problem in this world. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:10). To say it was either, you must show in the Bible where God calls unclean food or sin an unclean spirit. I don't know of any such connection.

The only reason you are having problems with the prophecy is because it doesn't match your expectations of what you think it ought to say. This is no different than the disciples difficulty in understanding Jesus' statements that he was going to die. The disciples didn't understand how the Messiah could establish a kingdom by dying, so they concluded that they must be misunderstanding Jesus. It is a typical reaction when facing what you are certain could not be true.

In that Day

A time period in the future, not necessarily a single day but a time frame. Yet the phrasing means that it is a definitive period.

A Fountain Shall be Opened for Sin and Uncleanness

The problem of sin will be addressed by bringing in a means for cleansing from sin. "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:7). Water is often used to symbolically represent the removal of sinful filth from a person's life.

"And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:11).

"From Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5).

Jesus' blood is the fountain that cleanses sinners.

For the House of David and for the Inhabitants of Jerusalem

This prophecy is focused on the nation of Israel, though it is not necessarily limited to just Israel. Israel benefited from the death of Jesus but at the present time and for those who lived in the past. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:14-15). Salvation wasn't limited to just the house of Israel, but they did greatly benefit from Jesus' death. "Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth'" (Isaiah 49:6).

Cut Off the Names of the Idols from the Land

Notice the repeat of "in that day" so that it is clear that at the same time a way for the cleansing of sin is opened, there would be a change in "the land," which is a reference to Israel. Ezekiel made a similar prophecy set in the same time frame. "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:24-26).

Israel had always had a problem with idolatry. Baal, Asheroth, Molech, and other idols were constantly luring the Israelites from the worship of the only living God. In this same period of time, the problem of idolatry in Israel would finally be resolved. In fact, as Christianity sweep through the Roman Empire, the idolatry of each region faded away, no longer to be worshiped. "They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God" (Ezekiel 37:23). The latter phrase is important because it is quoted in the New Testament:

"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty." Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II Corinthians 6:16-7:1).

With the establishment of the church, idolatry was given a death blow. This is not saying that people would not still put other things ahead of God. Sin would still exist. But where are the Baal worshippers, Asheroth devotes, and the Molech followers today? The objects of their devotions, though followed for over a thousand years, were cut off and are gone.

The Prophets and the Unclean Spirit Will Depart from the Land

The time period of this prophecy is not flexible. It refers very specifically to the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church. In this same period, prophets and the unclean spirit would also leave the land.

Daniel was given a prophecy in Daniel 9:20-27 which pinpointed the year in which the Messiah would arrive (see Daniel's Seventy Weeks for details). In that prophecy, it was stated that vision and prophecy would be sealed. To seal something is to bring it to a conclusion.

God used visions and prophecies in the past to communicate with His people (Hebrews 1:1). A chief focus of the Old Testament prophecies was the coming of the Messiah and the era which would follow him. "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven -- things which angels desire to look into" (I Peter 1:10-12).

With the completion of the New Law, the need for prophecy ended (I Corinthians 13:8-13). Prophecy and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit were just partial measures to carry the church along until the law was completely recorded. "But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:10). The word "perfect" means to be complete or mature and can be seen in Paul's further illustration, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Corinthians 13:11). In the Greek, the grammar precisely states that what is being talked about is singular and, being in the neuter, a thing. What is being discussed is the New Testament, "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25).

Even Jesus spoke of this when He said that those who would claim to prophesy in His name in a future time would be cut off. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23). Notice that it wasn't just the claim of prophesying that would label a person as a fraud, but also the claim of casting out demons. Why? Because possession by unclean spirits would no longer be happening. See also:

Demon possession was something that only occurred in the era around Jesus' coming into the world. You don't read about it before or after. Sure there are people claiming to be possessed by demons, but a claim doesn't constitute a reality. Demon possession is not temptation. It isn't illness. It isn't insanity. It was unclean spirits taking control of a person against their will.

And by the way, the reign of Christ is going on right now. It isn't in the future. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet" (I Corinthians 15:25). That is why we call Jesus our Lord. See "The Thousand Year Reign" for more details.

Thanks for your answer. The part that confuses me is "I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land" It talks about one spirit. If it meant demon possession, wouldn't it have been plural?

When a singular is used when you know it should be plural, then you should understand a metonymy is being used. Metonymies are used in everyday language and in the Scripture when we use one thing in place of something else. In this case we have a metonymy of number. You do it yourself. "Hang on! I'll be just a minute." Ten minutes later you show up and no one thinks it is odd even though you said you would be there in one minute. Everyone understands that "just a minute" represents a short while. Another example is: "So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword" (Joshua 17:13). Israel didn't have just one sword between all it's soldiers.

The reason for substituting a singular for a known plural is to emphasize that all were acting in concert. The ten minutes were passing by together as if it ought to feel that it was just one. The sword meant that the army acted as a united whole in defeating the Amalekites. And in the case of the unclean spirit, while we know there were many (Mark 5:9), what God is saying is that they were acting in a coordinated effort.