It is written:
“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.” (Zechariah 13:1-2)
Does the Prophet here declare that at the time of the death of Jesus, demons would be cast out of the Earth?
No, he doesn’t.
First, the passage itself is unclear about the timing of this prophecy. Many believe that this is a reference to Jesus’ death on the Cross of Calvary, when the way of salvation was offered to the Jewish people, and then to the Gentiles (Acts 2:38-39). However, it is also possible that this prophecy looks down through the Christian Age, possibly even to the time near the Second Coming.
Second, the phrase “unclean spirit” is uncertain. It is translated in the NIV as “spirit of impurity,” with a reference being made to the power of sin, not necessarily to demonic spirits. John Gill points out that some of the more ancient Jewish commentators, Jarchi and Kimshi, believed that this is the idea behind the passage.
Third, the passage also teaches that “in that day” idols will also be forgotten in the land. When Jesus died on the Cross, did idols magically disappear the next day?
Of course not!
Fourth, if this passage were prophesying that at the death of Christ all demonic spirits would be cast out of the Earth, why did Jesus (AFTER His death) give His Apostles power to cast out evil spirits (Mark 16:17-20)?
Fifth, If evil spirits were to be cast out of the land at the time of the death of Jesus, why does Acts record several examples of confrontations between the church and demonic spirits, long after Jesus’ death (Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18; 19:11-12, 15-16)?
Sixth, if Zechariah were prophesying that demonic spirits would be cast out of the land on the day Jesus died, why does the Apostle Paul teach Christians in his Epistle to the Ephesians that we are constantly struggling with principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12)? These were all phrases that had been used by the Jewish people for centuries to describe different types of wicked spirits, and this was written nearly fifteen years after Jesus died.
Seventh, if Zechariah were prophesying that demonic spirits would be shut out of the land at the time of the death of Jesus, why does the Book of Revelation show us that during the Christian Age, demonic activity would increase in the world, up to the time of the Second Coming?
Revelation 9:1-11-1 Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. 3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. 7 The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. 10 They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. 11 And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.
Revelation 12:9-So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Revelation 12:12-Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
Revelation 13:13-14-He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth—by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
Revelation 16:14-For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Revelation 18:2-And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
Revelation 20:7-10-Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison. 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
With these things in mind, it is clear that Zechariah 13:1-2 was not prophesying that at the time of Jesus’ death, all unclean spirits would be removed from the land.
What then is the meaning of the passage?
First, it is possible that the passage is prophesying how the power of sin (“spirit of impurity”) would be broken by the death of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. This is certainly true (John 8:31-32; Romans 6:3-4).
Second, it is possible that this prophecy has not yet been fully realized and looks to a future time for ultimate completion. Certainly, there are some prophecies of the Old Testament that have yet to be fulfilled (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
As Baron notes:
“The range of the prophetic vision, however, in the six last chapters of Zechariah does not terminate with the mere immediate future, but finds its goal in the time of the end, when the great sins of idolatry and false prophecy shall reach their climax in the worship of the beast and his image, and in the “unclean spirits” which shall go forth upon the earth to receive the anti-Christian nations.” (David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary On His Visions And Prophecies, 5539 (Kindle Edition))
Make no mistake: Satan is on the prowl, walking about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). If Christians claim that Satan, fallen angels, and demons are not active in the world, we are denying the Bible and we are aiding the enemy in his goals.
The spiritual war rages on-and we need to be ready to fight (Ephesians 6:10-18).