In Scripture, we are told that angels have many roles. A few of them include being God’s messengers and Holy warriors, watching history unfold, praising and worshipping God, and being Guardian Angels – protecting and directing people on God’s behalf. The Bible tells us that God’s angels are delivering messages, accompanying the lonely, granting protection and even fighting His battles. Angels who were sent to deliver messages began their words saying “Do not be afraid,” or “Do not fear.” One of those examples is the angel Gabriel. In Luke 1, God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell that she would give birth to the Son of God. Also, in Luke 1 the angel Gabriel was sent to Zechariah to tell of the news that Elizabeth would bear a son. These accounts are great examples of how angels are sent to give messages from God. While many of us recognize the angel Gabriel by name, particularly as it relates to the Christmas story, how much do we really know about him? Here are seven biblical facts about the angel Gabriel.
Gabriel isn’t Called an Archangel in the Bible
Many people, including Christians consider Gabriel an archangel and for good reason. The book of Enoch, an influential work written between the Old and New Testament, references Gabriel as an archangel. Because of this, most believe that Gabriel is an archangel from this text. The book of Enoch says Gabriel and Michael were both archangels. Jude quotes the book of Enoch as prophecy and calls Michael and archangel. Because of this, Jude considered Gabriel an archangel too, all pointing to Gabriel being one. But the truth is the Protestant Bible never once calls Gabriel an archangel. The only named angel specifically called an archangel in the Bible is Michael, referenced in Jude 9.
Gabriel Only Speaks to Three Biblical Characters
We know from Scripture that the angel Gabriel is a messenger who is entrusted to deliver several important messages on God’s behalf. Gabriel appears to at least three people in the Bible, first to the prophet Daniel, referenced in Daniel 8:16; next to the priest Zechariah to foretell and announce the miraculous birth of John the Baptist (Luke 19:19); and finally to the virgin Mary to tell her that she would conceive and bear a son, referenced in Luke 1:26-28.
Gabriel First Appears in Daniel’s Vision
The first time we see Gabriel, he appears to Daniel after the prophet had a vision. Gabriel’s role is to explain the vision to Daniel. The Bible tells us, “And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” Gabriel’s appearance was that of a man. When Gabriel visited Daniel a second time, he came to him “in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice” (Daniel 9:21).
Gabriel May Not Have Had Wings
While popular art and culture depict Gabriel with wings, he may not have had them. Gabriel’s “flight” referenced in Daniel 9:21 might suggest wings, but wings are not mentioned. While there is no record of Gabriel having wings, Scripture also doesn’t say that he didn’t have wings. Much is left up to our imagination.
Gabriel’s Name Means “God is Great”
His name has tremendous significance and power. Gabriel means “God is great,” and, as the angel of the annunciation, he is the one who revealed that the Savior would be called “Jesus” referenced in Luke 1:31. But Jesus isn’t the only baby Gabriel names. When Gabriel startles Zechariah in the temple, he tells the priest to name his son John (Luke 1:13). In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus states that among the sons of women, nobody is greater than John the Baptist – although the very least in the kingdom of God would be greater than John. Gabriel is quite significant as he names the two greatest humans to ever live. Every time Gabriel shows up in the Bible, he makes some mention of Jesus. Gabriel’s messages always point to the coming Messiah.
Gabriel is One of Two Named Good Angels in the Bible
While many angels are referenced in the Bible, Gabriel is one of the two good and holy angels referenced by name which is pretty significant. He has favored position as an angel who stands in the presence of God (Luke 1:19), and he is selected to deliver important messages of God’s particular love and favor to individuals chosen to be part of God’s plan.
Gabriel’s Appearance is Rather Terrifying
It is clear from Scripture that Gabriel’s appearance was rather terrifying, as Daniel fell on his face at the sight of him. The Bible tells us, “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, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end’” (Daniel 8:17). The Bible also tells us that he was sick for days after his experience with the angel and the vision. Scripture also says, “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it” (Daniel 8:27). Zechariah is likewise “startled and gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12). His fear may not have been based as much on his physical appearance as it was the shock factor. He did show up unannounced in what was supposed to be an empty temple. He may have been less frightened by his looks than he was his sudden appearance.
While God has called His heavenly messengers to work on His behalf, He has also called angels to work in our lives in very profound ways. Gabriel is an incredible example of this. God loves us so much that He sends His angels to guard, guide and protect us through various stages of our life. Although we may not immediately know or see that angels are around us, they are there at God’s direction and working to assist us in this life and the next.