Gabriel appears four times in Scripture. In each instance, he gives a message about the Messiah and other events to come. In the first instance, he appeared to Daniel, looking like a man and frightening him with his presence and his words (Daniel 8:15–18). Helping Daniel back to his feet, he prophesied of things to come, including how the Messiah would defeat the Antichrist (Daniel 8:18–27; cf. 8:25).
Second, Gabriel appeared to Daniel again in response to Daniel’s prayer of repentance for Israel (Daniel 9:20–23; cf. 9:1–19). Gabriel promised that, after a coming 490 years had taken place, Israel’s transgression would be finished, sin would be ended, iniquity would have atonement, righteousness would last forever, prophecy would be fulfilled, and God’s people would render Him holy worship (Daniel 9:24). These years would be broken into three parts—a set of 49 years now past (Daniel 9:25a), another set of 434 years now past, having ended when Jesus the Anointed One was “cut off” by the cross (Daniel 9:25b; cf. Acts 10:38), and a yet-future set of 7 years that ends with the rise and fall of the Antichrist (Daniel 9:26–27).
Third, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple. Similar to Daniel’s experience, Gabriel came to announce an answer to Zechariah’s prayer, perhaps a prayer for Israel to turn to the Lord, something fitting with Zechariah’s temple service as a priest (Luke 1:8–10). After arriving, frightening, and comforting Zechariah, Gabriel prophesied that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son, John, who would be the forerunner for the Messiah (Luke 1:11–20). A prophet would prepare the way, and then the Messiah would come. Israel’s prayers were being answered.
Fourth, Gabriel appeared to Mary six months later (Luke 1:26–38). He troubled her not by his appearance but by his words of commendation. He comforted her and announced that she would miraculously conceive as a virgin and have a child, Jesus, who would be her Son, David’s greater Son, and the Son of the Most High.
Tying these appearances together, Gabriel knew when 483 years would end and when the Anointed One would arrive to begin to bring in all the blessings of Daniel 9:24. Now that that time was up, it was apparently fitting for God to send him again to announce the arrival of Jesus. The blessings so far away in Daniel 9:24 were nearer than ever before.
For us today, while Jesus has atoned for our iniquity on the cross, we still anticipate the time when sin meets its end, only to be replaced by eternal righteousness and perfect worship of God forever. Though we do not know when Christ will come again, we know it is soon, at any time. May we be like Daniel and Zechariah—watching, waiting, praying, and hoping—and finding our prayers suddenly answered as the King and His kingdom come.
All quotes ESV. Articles by Pastor Huffstutler are at davidhuffstutler.com.