Luke 1:26-38 describes a scene where the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary and made the well-known announcement that she had been selected by God to be the mother of the Christ. The Christmas season is the most common time that we see depictions of angels everywhere - on Christmas cards, ornaments, decorations, and more. While we never want to go to the extreme of worshiping angels (Colossians 2:18), it can be helpful to assimilate what God has revealed in His Word about them to perfect our understanding of Scripture's message. I have always understood Gabriel's role as being the messenger of God, but studying the occurrences of his name in Scripture this year brought that understanding more into focus. The nature of his messages each time he is named in Scripture has to do with Messiah and His mission. Let's review these together.
There are four times the angel Gabriel is named in Scripture: Daniel 8:16, Daniel 9:21, Luke 1:19, and Luke 1:26.
Daniel 8:16. In the passage that follows this verse, the angel Gabriel makes the prophet Daniel to understand an end time vision. Antichrist will be mighty but not by his own power, and he will come against the Prince of princes (the Lord Jesus Christ). "Yet he will be broken — not by human hands." (CSB) This relates to Messiah's end-time mission in defeating the Antichrist and setting up His millennial kingdom.
Daniel 9:21. Daniel 9 is the famous chapter where we find the 70 weeks prophecy. Interestingly, Daniel was greatly loved by God such that God chose to reveal end times visions to him through His messenger Gabriel another time. As a sidebar, there does appear to be a strong connection between those who draw near to God (Daniel was known for his prayer habits) and God's self-revelation. Gabriel is explaining here the exact time that Messiah will be cut off. Interestingly, the timing of Jesus's death on the cross lines up precisely with this centuries-old prophecy. Once again, Gabriel's message pertains to Messiah and His salvation mission from start to finish.
Luke 1:19. Here, Gabriel appears to Zacharias the priest. Zacharias learns that he and his wife Elizabeth will be blessed to bear a son. Despite being past the age of child-bearing and having a long history of barrenness, this miracle would fulfill prophecy. Isaiah 40:3 says, "Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." This son whom Elizabeth and Zacharias would bear would be named "John," and John the Baptist would fulfill this prophecy of Isaiah to be the forerunner of Messiah. Again, we see Gabriel's message pertaining to Messiah and His mission. Zacharias asks for a sign since he has his doubts about the truth of Gabriel's message. As a result, we are told in verse 19: "And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. “But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” This underscores the role of Gabriel, his relation to God, and some of his delegated power and authority.
Luke 1:26. The last place we find Gabriel named is when he appears to Mary. Mary is surprised and wonders what kind of greeting this is. Gabriel lets Mary know that she has been selected to bear the Messiah in fulfillment of prophecy. Mary does not doubt or ask for a sign, yet she is given a sign. Her question is more of a logistical nature: "How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (verse 34). Gabriel provides Mary with the sign that her relative Elizabeth who had been barren is now with child. Here again, we see Gabriel's message pertaining to the first advent of Christ - his birth and earthly ministry. Gabriel instructs Mary to name the child Jesus.
So Gabriel is only named four times in Scripture, but each time he is more than a mere messenger of God. His messages relate specifically to Messiah's forerunner, Messiah's birth, Messiah's death, Messiah's conquering of Antichrist, and setting up a kingdom of which there will be no end. Gabriel's appearances in Scripture tell the full story of Messiah and His mission.
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