Summary of Biblical Testimony
The Bible contains four direct references to Gabriel – two in the Old Testament book of Daniel (8:16, 9:21), and two in the New Testament book of Luke (1:19, 26). The only other angel in God’s service who is named is Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7).
We know that Gabriel appeared to at least three individuals to communicate and clarify God’s message for them. Taking the form of a man (Daniel 8:15), he appeared to Daniel to explain prophecy and even to indicate when the Messiah, God’s anointed, promised Savior would first come (Daniel 8:16ff., 9:21ff.). He appeared in the temple to the elderly Zacharias to announce the conception, birth, and ministry of John the Baptist, who would prepare people for the coming of the Lord (Luke 1:19). Gabriel describes himself as “standing in the presence of God” and as being sent to give good news to Zacharias (Luke 1:19). God sent Gabriel to Nazareth to announce to Mary that God had favored her: the Holy Ghost would come upon her and a son would be conceived – Jesus, who would receive the throne of his ancestor David (Luke 1:26ff.). He left Mary after she verbally consented to the prophecy (Luke 1:38). In all three instances, Gabriel dealt with the glory of God in accomplishing what was humanly impossible – predicting in great detail the rise and fall of future kingdoms and the timing of Messiah’s coming; announcing God’s choice to give barren Elisabeth a child in her old age; and the virgin birth of the Son of God, who would reign forever.
It is possible that Gabriel appears in other places, but it is conjecture without the actual mention of his name. However, the usage of “an angel of the Lord” and “the angel of the Lord” seems to be interchangeable in these New Testament passages (“an angel of the Lord” in Luke 1:11 is later identified with Gabriel in 1:26), and it is possible that Gabriel was the one who appeared to Joseph in a dream (or dreams) in Matthew 1 & 2, and that he was the one leading the heavenly host in their glorious announcement in Luke 2.
Lessons from His Character
Gabriel stood in the presence of God. He did not receive what he shared second-hand, but actually stood before the Lord. While we are not part of the angelic host as Gabriel was, if we have repented of our sin and trusted Christ, we can stand before Him through the presence of His Holy Spirit, by virtue of being united to Christ, as we draw near to hear His voice in the Bible and commune with Him in prayer.
Gabriel was sent. He was conscious of being commissioned to go, obey God, and minister in the ways that he did. (The word “angel” is derived from has the connotations of being a messenger – one who is sent.) It may be that the sending would not have happened without the standing in God’s presence. God calls people to different avenues of service, but if we know Him and stand before Him, we will know that He has called us to obey Him and serve in particular areas, especially the next two points.
Gabriel communicated God’s Word. As he explained and communicated prophecy, he was simply passing on what God wanted Daniel to know. As He told Zacharias and Mary how God had blessed them and what He would do for them and through their sons, He was simply communicating God’s Word. As people with a message, God sends Christians to communicate God’s Word, not our own opinions, but what the Most High God says.
Gabriel announced the gospel. His focus was on the preparation for and coming of Jesus. Christians also ought to see the announcing the good news of Christ as their most glorious privilege in serving God. We must announce, from the Scriptures, that Christ, the Son of the Most High God, has come, and fulfilled the promise of God. He offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who turn away from their rebellion and trust Him who is King forever and ever. He will return one day to judge the living and the dead, and we must come to Him on His terms if we are to experience His salvation and are to eagerly anticipate meeting Him face to face.