Part 11: The Prophets and the Spirit of Impurity
“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. And if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the LORD’s name.’ When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him.
The Book of Zechariah can be seen as the gospel of the Old Testament because it contains prophecies that are extensively quoted in the New Testament. The phrase “This was to fulfill the word” is frequently used in Matthew, and many instances of this can be found in the Book of Zechariah. This book of Zechariah is right before Malachi. As the time approached just before Jesus’ coming, there was a sense of significant preparation and readiness among the last active prophet. It seems as if they were pouring out prophecies during this limited remaining time.
In Zechariah 13, it begins by speaking about ‘In that day,’ referring to the day when Jesus will come to the world. It details what will happen on that day: “On that day, a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zechariah 13:1).
A fountain has opened, and by this water, sin and impurity are washed away. It signifies the beginning of the work of forgiveness of sins. However, this spring does not stop at being just a spring; it will eventually become a great river that will completely cover people.
Moreover, Zechariah 13:2 says, “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” we are now speaking of the name of the idol, the devil that has been dominating the world. The prince of this world is to be destined for destruction. As He said, “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land.” The prophet mentioned here is called a ‘false prophet’ in other translations.
These two aspects are discussed together here: ‘false prophets’ and ‘spirits of impurity.’ In the New Testament, ‘demons’ and ‘spirits of impurity/unclean spirits’ are used with the same meaning. The meaning of the word translated as ‘demon’ in the original text is ‘unclean spirit.’ This is important to understand, as in the New Testament, ‘unclean spirits’ are also referred to as ‘demons.’
It was very accurately prophesied that unclean spirits would be removed from the land. The forgiveness begins from Jerusalem, and then the unclean spirits depart. However, something is treated in the same way as the departure of unclean spirits: the departure of false prophets. This means that the position of false prophets is just like the position of unclean spirits.
In this Korean Bible, when it mentions a ‘false prophet,’ the word ‘false’ is written in small letters. This indicates that the term ‘false’ does not exist in the original text. Who added it? The translators added it into Korean. I think it would be preferable to translate it precisely as it appears in the original text to enhance our understanding. The addition of ‘false’ already implies a negative connotation to false prophets, so there is nothing more to think about it. It took away our opportunity for thoughtful consideration.
For instance, when reading the passage, “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land,” one might question its strangeness, asking, “There are good prophets as well, aren’t there?” In response, we can explain that “It signifies the role of prophets has ended, as Jesus clearly stated, ‘The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John.’” This means there are no more prophets.
Someone might counter, “But the New Testament mentions the word prophet.” Yet, it is a completely different concept from the prophet mentioned in the Old Testament. Nevertheless, if one insists, “The New Testament also mentions the word ‘prophet,’” it would imply that Jesus said something wrong. However, the ultimate standard is Jesus’ words. In the face of controversy, we should set His word as the standard. His words are the foundation for everything, regardless of the time and situation, because Jesus, who is God, has been speaking about Himself and heaven from eternity. All other statements by individuals inspired by the Holy Spirit are about various derived concepts by applying them to different situations. Therefore, we cannot insist the prophets still exist and they are no longer present.
Verse 3 states, “if anyone still prophesies…” So, what if someone seems to be acting as a prophet? “his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the LORD’s name.’ When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him.” This is a matter of great severity. The Bible instructs the parents to thrust their child first. I guess there is no one in our country who can do that.
Even among the Israelites, hardly any people could do that either. God has commanded this; however, they could not do it, which led them to destruction. As they could not keep God’s command properly, over time, there was no one in Israel who kept the Law properly. Consequently, they faced destruction. It needs to be resolved firmly to keep God’s command.
As Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” That is how profound faith is. Without absolute commitment, it is impossible. We should not simply dismiss this command as irrelevant because it comes from the Old Testament. Instead, we need to follow the principles and mental attitude outlined in the Old Testament. The focus has shifted from Jehovah to Jesus Christ, and it has changed from physical matters to the spiritual. However, the mindset, determination, dignity, faith, and attitude should persist without alteration; we must insistently maintain them. The Old Testament served as a period of training, and then, when the training was complete, Jesus came when they were ready to receive.
God has treated the prophecy so seriously to the point of commanding death. Could you do this? Even in the Old Testament era, if someone executed it nicely, there would be a riot. “Aren’t you too radical? It doesn’t make any sense. Our son’s prophecy is true. Someone actually appeared and talked about it.” It would be true that someone appeared and talked about it. Such phenomena occur in reality. Nevertheless, the crucial point is that we should not go beyond the written word. We should not surpass God’s will.
You could fail even if you try to do it according to the recorded word. Why? This is because if you do not know the Picture of God’s Will, you cannot properly follow God’s word. In other words, it is acting like a prophet using mere sentences from the Bible without the complete picture of the entire Bible. Is there any believer who does not read the Bible? They all do. However, if those who do not have the complete picture of God’s will, then they have no choice but to drift away.
I heard that some pastors who left our church were inspired by a meeting in China centered on the Book of Revelation. So, I called a pastor in China and asked him to go there and check it out. But then, things took a strange turn because he also said they teach very effectively. Even though their teaching might be effective, they suddenly reject the Picture of God’s Will, Semuon, and Berea. These changes are so weird and perplexing. Unfortunately, those who do not adequately understand the picture of God’s will easily fall for such mystical teachings.
What we glean from these incidents is that they lacked a sense of mission for the Berea Movement. I did not consider them to have a calling for the Berea Movement. They did not have a complete picture of God’s will in the Bible, so they continued to seek new knowledge. Their focus was on finding material to teach others. So, when someone presented a new interpretation of the Book of Revelation, they were easily tempted and inclined to leave.
As a result, those who are merely seeking “something to preach” are easily susceptible to deception. On the other hand, we consider the entire picture in the Bible. The reason we refrain from discussing those things is not due to a lack of knowledge. The Picture of God’s Will serves as a framework, a strategy. So, we avoid delving into the details, leaving those aspects for individuals to study later. Those who lack awareness of this framework might easily accept other teachings without critical consideration.
Those who take pleasure in explaining each word of the Bible without grasping the entire picture may easily be trapped in mysticism. This tendency often leads to a simplistic narrative, asserting that God directly commands them to do this or that. And then, after about 10 years, these groups typically disband. Even now, there are reports of such factions having already split and dispersed. Our faith is not centered on pursuing mystical things. Instead, we clearly state and sustain what has been going on for thousands of years and will continue for over a thousand years.
Among lectures at Berea Academy, there is a discussion on prophecy in chapter 4, “The Bible is made up of 4 parts.” When Semuon mentioned the Law and the prophet, he explained in detail about the common misunderstandings of prophets in South Korea. This is due to the tendency of many South Korean Christians to associate prophecy with fortune-telling. The desire for fortune-telling is a religious instinct of humans, and it is present in various religions and cultures worldwide. Unfortunately, these practices have infiltrated the Christian faith in South Korea, with many Christians engaging in fortune-telling. Before I started attending Sungrak Church, I had many Christian friends, some of whom had parents serving as elders and deacons. Surprisingly, even some of their parents frequently visited fortune-tellers to inquire about their future. It was a prevalent occurrence.
Moreover, some individuals even visited prayer centers specifically for fortune-telling purposes. Certain prayer centers have gained fame for this practice, where those in charge predict, for example, “Daughter, daughter, you will be a minister.” While being a minister can be viewed positively as a life dedicated to God, the act of fortune-telling does not determine this path. Anyone has the opportunity to heed Jesus’ command, “Follow me on this path. I will make you fishers of men.” The choice to follow this path or not depends on each individual. Importantly, the Lord said anyone can choose this narrow path, but He does not compel anyone; He clearly said, “Follow me.”
If we are concerned about our spirits, we should follow Jesus even without a direct call from Him. Jesus once said to a woman of Canaan, “It is not good to take children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” If God has similarly spoken to mystics, they might think, ‘I’m not qualified,’ and walk away. However, the Canaanite woman responded, “Yes, Lord, it’s okay if I’m considered a dog. Yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Her response is an incredible example. Imagine that if you listen to this word from Jesus, then you might be heartfelt. But the woman did not take offense to Jesus’ words. Instead, she humbly said, “It’s okay if I’m regarded as a dog. I just want to eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Then, Jesus replied to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” This exemplifies true faith.
So, those who pray as if fortune-telling, asking, “God, what is Your plan for me?” or prophesy to others, “You are destined to do this,” are completely tainted. These practices are prevalent not only in South Korea but worldwide due to their cultural and traditional religious backgrounds. Similar practices were even present in the Old Testament period. In Ezekiel 13:1-7: “The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’” This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false, and their divinations are a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, ‘The Lord declares,’ and expect Him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, ‘The Lord declares,’ though I have not spoken?”
And Ezekiel 14:6-11: “Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! When any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing in Israel separate themselves from me and set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet to inquire of me, I the Lord will answer them myself. I will set my face against them and make them an example and a byword. I will remove them from my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord. And if the prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the Lord have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him from among my people Israel. They will bear their guilt—the prophet will be as guilty as the one who consults him. Then the people of Israel will no longer stray from me, nor will they defile themselves anymore with all their sins. They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”
In chapter 13, it is mentioned that those who prophesy according to their own thoughts without hearing anything are compared to ‘wild foxes.’ I am not denying the mystical experience itself. There are definitely mysterious and spiritual experiences, and God also works through special experiences, dreams, and visions. However, it is very dangerous to claim to label whatever feeling or thought that comes to your mind as a divine revelation.
When God spoke to Abraham, it was not simply a passing thought in his mind; rather, God provided him with a genuine experience. Abraham either heard the words from a certain person who appeared in person or directly listened to the voice speaking from heaven. Similarly, Moses saw something significant in the burning bush, receiving an actual message, not a mere emotional or inspirational feeling. It is crucial to make a clear distinction between these types of experiences.
Semuon made a clear distinction between vision and being half-awake. In his book, “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” he distinguished between visions and illusions. He recounted his experience, emphasizing that he was not asleep but, while praying, had entered into a specific circumstance. He found himself at sea, fishing, experiencing the weight of the fish, the smell, and the temperature. Then, he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “This fish is all yours, so pull in the net.” Suddenly, he realized that he was in a church worship hall. This was a real experience, not just a mere illusion. Such experiences are referred to as a vision/half-awake.
Some people who have not had these experiences used to claim that their thoughts arose in their minds as God’s words. And they say, “God tells me,” or “God tells you to do that.” These claims are considered abominable. Engaging in such practices can cause significant harm to our spirits. I have witnessed this in many instances, which is a very concerning issue. Since Semuon witnessed this even more, he consistently warned against such practices early on. Moreover, he mentioned, “The reason for the Berea Movement is mysticism. I started the Berea Movement due to mysticism, not because people denied the work of the Holy Spirit.”
And what is the characteristic of those who seek fortune-telling? It says in verse 7, “they ask about themselves.” However, prophecies from God are not for personal gain; they are to declare the great work of God. As we can see from 1 Corinthians 14, prophecy teaches about the works of God; it is not about fortune-telling by asking about one’s future. The practice of seeking guidance for personal matters has a long history, where people ask, “What should I do?” It is described as something that demons engaged in. In Acts 16:16, we can see that when they cast out demons that practiced fortune-telling, the person can no longer engage in fortune-telling. Therefore, this is something that demons used to do.
In the New Testament, what does “prophecy” mean? 1 Corinthians 14:5 says, “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied.” Prophesy is to speak to people, and the original meaning of “prophecy” is “to speak beforehand.” The term “pro-” means “before, ahead,” and “phanai” means “to speak.” So, it means speaking something beforehand. However, as I mentioned earlier, this is not about speaking about individual destinies; it is about speaking about God’s great work. So when I preach now, I am speaking about God’s great work beforehand: “Jesus will come in the future, and He will judge.” These are all future events. “We will go to heaven in the future,” We will be resurrected,” these are all spoken beforehand, so it is about preaching.
Consequently, the one prophesying refers to a preacher, not a fortune-teller predicting personal destiny. The prophets in the Old Testament predicted about Jesus; however, the concept of the prophet in the New Testament is different from the past’s concept. In the New Testament, prophets refer to preachers, so Paul and Barnabas were called prophets. Paul did not go around saying, “This will happen to you”; he spoke about God’s great work/the work of Jesus Christ.
We should avoid falling into delusion. If we want to have a special experience, we must obey God’s word. God grants special experiences as gifts to those who obey Him. We should not speak carelessly without hearing. The problem is that it could influence many people. If I were to use such language, how would it affect the churches in China? Nobody would listen anymore, saying, “God tells me to do it.” It is a very serious matter. In order to have a correct understanding of prophets and to make all of us become people who declare God’s great works, let us now pray together!
God our Father, we have come to know our Lord Jesus Christ and have seen the truth and eternal plan of God that the prophets of the past did not see. Now, help us to become true prophets who testify to God’s great works. Do not let us imitate those who prophesy based on their own hearts without hearing. Help us to have a clear understanding of the words recorded in the scriptures, as well as the Picture of God’s Will as recorded in the Bible, and actively fulfill the Word. Please help us. Pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 21, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team