Gabriel is an angelic messenger, known for giving significant messages to God’s faithful people four times in Scripture. Gabriel, whose name means, “God is great," is best known for his appearing to the Mother Mary, announcing the future birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. You may have seen a Christmas play that shows the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary with the wonderful news that she will be giving birth to the Messiah!
Though he is not specified as being an archangel, it is evident that because he is named in the Bible, he holds a high position among the angels. He makes appearances to Daniel the prophet, Zechariah the priest, and Mother Mary.
Gabriel in the book of Daniel
Gabriel makes his appearance in the Bible first to the prophet Daniel, who had been praying ,and saw a vision concerning the “kings of Media, Persia, and Greece.”
Daniel 8:15-18: “When I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I was frightened, and fell on my face: but he said to me, Understand, son of man; for the vision belongs to the time of the end. Now as he was speaking with me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face toward the ground; but he touched me, and set me upright.”
Note that Daniel was afraid when he saw Gabriel, perhaps due to his spectacular brilliance and powerful presence. Various people who encountered angels in Scripture were initially afraid, but the angels usually calmed their fears by telling them, “Do not be afraid.”
A bit later, Gabriel appeared to Daniel again, as recorded in Daniel 9:21. His message that second time concerned the prophetic message that Jesus would one day appear to “fulfill His ministry”. (Daniel 9:25-27) The Word says Gabriel came to give him wisdom and understanding (Daniel 9:22)
A third mention of an angelic being is found in Daniel 10, though no name is given to this messenger. It simply says, “one in the likeness of the children of men” in Daniel 10:16. Daniel had been fasting and praying in order to understand God’s vision given to him. In verse 12, it says that an angel came to give him the meaning of the vision. Most agree that this angel is Gabriel.
The angel tells Daniel that he had been restrained from coming sooner, but God heard his prayers the moment he prayed them. It says that archangel Michael went to help him so that he could go to Daniel. (Verse 13)
The interaction between Daniel and Gabriel shows us that there is a spiritual war going on in the heavenlies. There are holy angels who side with God, and unholy angels who side with Satan, at war with each other on behalf of mankind. The darkness is always trying to frustrate God’s purposes on the earth, but God sends His angels to intervene and prevail.
This is important to remember when you feel you are in some sort of battle or crisis. Know that you can ask God to send His archangels to war for you in the heavenly realm, so that you can ultimately experience victory in Christ Jesus. God cares, and He has multitudes of angels that He uses to assist His people, so remember to ask Him for help when you are in need.
Gabriel appears to Zacharias
In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel also appears to Zacharias, as he is ministering in the temple. Zacharias was a Priest who was married to Elizabeth. They had wanted a baby for years, but Elizabeth was barren. Even though Elizabeth was well past the age to bear children, they continued to pray for a child.
Part of Zacharias’s duties as a priest was to burn incense to God in the Holy Place of the Temple. At this particular time, as he is offering worship to the Lord at the Temple, the angel Gabriel appears, telling him that he has heard his prayers, and they will be granted. He assures Zacharias that his wife, Elizabeth, even though she was barren and of old age, will conceive and give birth to a son, whom they shall call John. Imagine the surprise and gratitude he had!
Luke 1:15-17 “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to prepare a people prepared for the Lord.”
Gabriel appears to Mary
Six months after Elizabeth became pregnant, Gabriel visited Mary and tells her that she will conceive a son, and his name will be Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:26-33) Can you imagine how Mary felt knowing that she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah? She may have felt nervous at the thought, but at the same time, God let her know that she had angelic help on her side. Surely, this may have helped ease some of her anxiety.
Note that Daniel, Zacharias, and Mary were afraid when they saw the angel Gabriel. Certainly, they weren’t used to seeing angels, and the sight of such an angelic presence caused fear to arise in them. However, Gabriel comforted them with words of peace right away, so that they could receive his messages without fear. God is not a God that uses fear to get results. He specifically had His angels immediately calm fears down by telling people, “Do not be afraid”. He wanted people to know that His angels come in peace.
As you can see, Gabriel is a holy angel used by God to deliver important messages to people. He “stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19) and ministered to those who were important individuals in God’s plan of redemption. He showed up with promises and mercy.
Other appearance of Gabriel
Though not specifically mentioned by name, biblical scholars believe Gabriel showed up in other parts of the Bible too. In Luke 1:11, Gabriel is described as “the angel of the Lord”, and other times in the New Testament, an “angel of the Lord” showed up. This very well could have been Gabriel.
According to Christian tradition, it is believed that Gabriel is the angel that also appeared to St. Joseph and the shepherds. He may have also been the angel who “strengthened” Jesus when He was struggling in agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Also, since he was a messenger angel, he may have been the angel that spoke with the apostle John in the book of Revelation. (Revelation 1:1-2)
You’ll oftentimes see archangel Gabriel portrayed by artists as a blond, soft-looking, tenderhearted angel with bright light surrounding him. Many paint him with long hair, flowy clothing, and a more feminine face, possibly due to the nature of his messages surrounding pregnancy and birth. It may be that the brilliant light is what initially scared those that he appeared to in the Bible, but Gabriel immediately tried to reassure them that he came in peace and they should not be afraid.
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