Posted in advent

Nativity & Advent: The Angel Gabriel

By Elizabeth Prata

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her,”Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33).

What a blessing that believers read this and know that we know the Lord, and even better, that we love Him and we know that He loves us.

Angels are fascinating. They are often wrongly depicted as chubby babies flying around with harps.

Sleeping Cupid, by Volterrano

They are not.

The Book of Revelation, illustrated by Chris Koelle

They are powerful created beings who dwell in several dimensions, see the face of God, and enact His holy statutes. They bring messages, execute judgment, defend the kingdom, comfort believers, praise His name, rejoice over saved sinners, and much more. They are God’s invisible army, millions of them are deployed every minute. They are oil in His holy machinery of providence.

As with most armies, the horde of angels seems to have been divided by ranks. They are called thrones, dominions, principalities, powers; also, authorities. There are angels, seraphim, cherubim, archangels (Jude 1:9) and so on. Michael is called “one of the chief princes” in Daniel 10:13.

John MacArthur said that in the Bible “there are 273 references in scripture to angels.” And since there are so many references it’s a shame most people don’t study them or know much more about them. We actually can know a lot, given the numerous references.

So who is Gabriel? We know he is an angel. He is called that in Luke 1 verse above. When he appeared to Mary she was greatly confused about the manner of his greeting. Gabriel told her not to fear. Same when Gabriel visited Zechariah the priest. “Fear not” is a common statement from the angels who came to earth. That is because they are so terrifyingly holy.

We know Gabriel was sent by God. Angels stand in His presence presenting themselves (Job 1:6; Luke 1:19) perhaps as with most armies, waiting for orders. When God has a task for them to do, He “sends.” (Revelation 22:6). Gabriel in particular seems to be deployed as a messenger. He visited Daniel several times as well as Zechariah the priest and Mary. Gabriel was also sent to give Daniel understanding of the vision God had for him. (Daniel 8:16-17, 9:21).

When Daniel was praying, Daniel said Gabriel came to him “in swift flight.” The notion of ‘flight’ evokes wings, and indeed the seraphim have wings, (Isaiah 6:2) but it isn’t sure that all angels have wings. In any case, we see that Gabriel the angel can travel through the dimensions, (third heaven, second heaven and earth) quickly, perhaps instantly.

In Daniel 10 an angel appears who is likely Gabriel again, but the angel is not named. In verse 13 the angel says he wanted to come earlier but he was prevented from doing so by the ‘prince of Persia.’ The archangel Michael had to battle him to let this angel through. The prior verses show us how eager holy angels are to do the will of God, and this verse shows how vigorously the unholy angels desire to prevent the will of God from being enacted. Battling the holy angels seems to be one of the ways they try to thwart God’s plans.

In the New Testament an angel also appeared to Joseph when Joseph was considering divorcing Mary. (Matthew 1:20). This time the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. The verse is careful to say “an angel of the Lord.” This is good because we know that not all who appear as angels, or ministers of righteousness, (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) are actually doing the work of the Lord! This angel is not named but it could well be Gabriel, since he had been sent twice before to bring messages about the incarnation events.

When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah the priest and to Mary, both times Gabriel said “fear not”. (Luke 1:12-13, 1:30). All holy angels, including Gabriel, must be terrifying to see. Being spirit beings, they have no body, when they come to earth they appear as a man. Although Gabriel was wearing a human suit, as it were, apparently one can immediately detect they are not mere men. Daniel 8:15, 10:16, 10:18 says that Gabriel “had the appearance of a man” or “had the likeness of a man.”

The angels have powers. When Zechariah the priest doubted Gabriel’s prophecy, Gabriel struck Zechariah mute. In Genesis 19:11 the angels struck the homosexual mob at Lot’s door with blindness.

Holy angels, including Gabriel, are powerful holy beings who can travel from heaven to earth, do the will of God, and even clothed as a human man can appear terrifying. They speak words of comfort and bring messages and interpretations of what is happening in God’s plan. They are sent by God and do not operate on their own, though they have personalities and individual wills. We will meet them someday.

It will be a grand day when all is revealed and we see them for who they are, our invisible helpers in the majestic and massive army of God. And Gabriel is part of that army, an integral soldier bringing the world’s best message of hope, to a young girl on a night long ago:



Further Reading

Grace To You: God’s Invisible Army

Ligonier: Angels as Messengers



Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.