Tonight’s all about Gabriel. A ton to say!
First of all, little known fact. In the Hebrew, the name Gabriel is pronounced Gabriel. Bet you didn’t know that. His name means “God is my Strength.” For all we know, he may be one of the most powerful angels in Heaven, but he is nothing apart from God. Gabriel is one of 4 names of angels that we’re given in the Bible. We’ve already covered two: Lucifer, and Abaddon, which was the name of the angel of the bottomless pit in Rev. 9:11. I’m not counting Legion because I suspect that was the name the collective demons decided to call themselves while they were all inside the Nude Dude in a Rude Mood. Kinda like a demon football team giving themselves the name Legion, except this football team had 3,000-5,000 demons. And they’re on a terrible losing streak. Worse than Arizona. The only other angels we know by name are Gabriel and Michael.
The fact that God gives us the names of Gabriel and Michael automatically tells us that they are important, highly-ranked angels. Between Michael and Gabriel, I suspect we’re looking at the highest and the second highest-ranking angels in Heaven. Many believe that Gabriel is an archangel, which makes no sense. Only Michael is identified as being an archangel and that’s in the book of Jude. “Archangel” means “over angel,” “chief angel,” or “the prince of angels.” Remember how Paul, talking about the rapture of the church, said in 1Th_4:16 that we will hear “the voice of the archangel…” Jude 1:9 would call Michael, “the archangel”. There is definitely a definite article in Jude, which means there is only one archangel in all the heavenly host, and that archangel is Michael. So what was Gabriel? Let’s find out!
Intro to Daniel
First, some context about the book of Daniel. I mentioned this yesterday on the podcast, but when you look at Daniel’s life, he is model of faithfulness while being under the thumb of a wicked, totalitarian regime. He was a man of great faith! In fact, we know more about the personal history of Daniel, of his character, than of any other prophet in Scripture. In the great faith hall of fame of Hebrews 11, Daniel’s name is not mentioned but his works are. “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” (Heb. 11:33). As a little boy he was resettled out of Jerusalem into Babylon. In a short time, he rose to the highest position in the empire. He continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus. And what faithfulness he exhibited! Remember how in Daniel 6, kings and princes sent spies to watch Daniel day and night in order to find fault with him, but “neither was there any error or fault found in him”. So they had to create a new law that would force him to betray his faith, which he wouldn’t do, and then they’d have an excuse to kill him. Daniel was a model of civil disobedience. All of that led to Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Yet, always, his dependence was upon God. His deep piety and humility are mentioned in nearly every chapter of the book. He was also a great man of prayer. He talked with the angel Gabriel who addressed him three times as “the man greatly beloved.” He outlived the captivity of seventy years and was quite old when Jehovah, whom he knew so well and whom he had so greatly honored by his faith, gave him the promise: "But go thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (12:13).
Daniel as a book is fascinating, all of which takes place during the time of Babylonian captivity. The book has only 12 chapters. Just about every writer from Gaebelein to Bullinger to Baxter would divide this book up structurally into two halves: the first six chapters and the last six chapters. They would say that the first half of the book is historical and the last half of the book is prophetical, which makes perfect sense to me. The first six chapters don’t contain any prophecies by Daniel, but he is the divinely chosen interpreter of what had been revealed to Nebuchadnezzar in dreams, which includes the epic dream in chapter two of the “This great image, whose brightness was excellent…” and “This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” This is what the Lord would call the times of the Gentiles in Luke 21:24. We know the head of gold is Babylon, the breast and arms of silver Media-Persia, the lower trunk of brass Greece, and the legs of iron Rome. The feet and toes are thought to represent ten federated kingdoms in the Tribulation. In Daniel 3, we have the story of the civil disobedience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, also perfect models of civil disobedience, which we talked about briefly yesterday.
In chapter 4, we get the amazing episode of the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar. He was turned into a beast. Ate grass like oxen and in Dan. 4:17 we encounter a central passage, arguably the theme of the whole book, when a humbled Nebuchadnezzar would say, This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. This was the point of the book, which is why from chapter 2 to the end of chapter 7 Daniel is written in Aramaic, the global language of the world at the time. Why? So all the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. People need to be reminded of this even today, don’t they? Then, in chapter 6, we have the story of Daniel and The Lion’s Den, which I love. Then, we’re given in the second half of the book, from chapters 7-12, visions and revelations of God to Daniel, all of which concern the times of Gentiles. We’d learn about the relationship of all these nations to Israel and what’s to happen in what’s called “the time of the end,” that is, the seven years of tribulation, which precedes the complete overthrow of the dominion of the Gentiles and the establishment of God’s kingdom of heaven on the earth when Christ returns in His Second Coming. Now let’s focus on chapter 8.
Let’s start with vs. 2 for the sake of context. Dan 8:2 And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai (oo-lah’ee). Daniel was not in the capital city of Babylon when all of this took place. The heart of Babylon is basically where modern-day Baghdad is located. But Daniel was in the province of Elam, which isn’t too far away. You guys know where Israel is. To the east of Israel is Iraq and to the east of Iraq is Iran. Jutting up between Iraq and Iran at the southern border is part of the Persian Gulf. Iran continues even further south along the Persian Gulf. But it’s along the shores of the Persian Gulf in Iran that you would’ve found the province of Elam. This was an amazing place. They still do tours there of the architectural ruins, which are some of the best in the world. Those buildings are just amazing. Why was Daniel in the province of Elam?
Look at vs. 27. After this story is over with, he says, Dan 8:27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it. So it would seem that he was in Elam doing the king’s business. He was in the employment of the king. He was in Elam carrying out some kind of business for the king, but what that business was we don’t know. So before Gabriel appears, in the first half of this chapter, Daniel receives a vision about a ram and a he-goat. The ram had two horns. And he’s standing at the head of the river Ulai doing as he willed, and no one got in his way. Then arrives this he-goat with one horn. He breaks the ram’s two horns and stomps him to death. Then Gabriel appears to Daniel to explain that the ram was symbolic of the Medes-Persians and how they will be overthrown by a new Greek empire. Where this vision takes place is important. He says, I was at Shushan in the palace. Shushan is what will become the capital of the Media-Persian Empire, which will eventually topple Babylon, and the Lord’s showing how the Greeks will topple the Media-Persian Empire. So Daniel’s staying at the palace. He’s by the river. Maybe having a moonlit walk. And he had that vision about the ram and the he-goat. Look down at vs. 15.
Dan 8:15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.Dan 8:16 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. Dan 8:17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
First, why does Daniel say that what stood before him was the appearance of a man? What exactly is going on here? It’s not said here, but when Daniel encounters Gabriel again in the next chapter, he would say in 9:21, “Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning”. He had previously seen Gabriel in a vision. So when Daniel writes in vs. 15, And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man, it would seem to indicate this is a continuation of the first vision and he didn’t realize it. You may recall from the Cherubims of Glory message that Ezekiel was careful to say the appearance of something because he knew that what he was describing was not the real thing but only a vision. Yet, here, I suspect that Daniel says the appearance of a man not only because this is a vision, but also, as he’s looking back at this moment while he’s writing about it, he knows that he’s writing about Gabriel, an angel, who’s taken on the appearance of a man, even though that’s not his natural state as an angel.
So then Daniel hears a voice, the voice of the Lord, who instructs Gabriel to explain the interpretation of the vision. And Daniel, after Gabriel walks up to him, falls to his face in sheer terror. What was it that made this whole moment so terrifying? It’s one thing to read this story. It’s another to live through it. We would all be terrified. You have this vision. I think having visions like these would be very unsettling. Then, you suddenly then see a stranger you don’t know. You hear the voice of God along the banks of the river. And then this stranger, who has the appearance of a man (but you know deep down he’s really not human – he’s an angel, and not only that, you know he’s an extremely high-ranking angel because God revealed his name), and he walks up to you and speaks to you. I imagine we’d all really sense how little we are, how great God is, how unclean and unworthy we are to be in the presence of one of God’s holy and highest-ranking angels, and we would all fall to our faces just like Daniel. We are so small, and God is so infinitely powerful, even the slightest encounter with His voice and with one of His elite angels walking up to us and speaking to us, is enough to make every single one of us fall to our knees.
One question I had was why did God’s voice come from the banks of the river as opposed to hearing the voice come down from Heaven? It may have been possible that given Daniel’s penchant for passing out that if he had heard the voice from heaven, he may have passed out right there on the spot. Having the voice come from the banks may imply the nearness of God to Daniel. But I think that because the events of the ram and the he-goat in the vision took place at the head of the river Ulai, God’s voice also coming from the river immediately tells you that He is the author of that vision. He’s given that vision for a reason. Plus, He’s conveying His sovereignty over the rise and fall of the Gentile world empires. And that Daniel should listen to Gabriel who’s about to talk to him. It’s a declaration and an assurance that this is all coming from God Himself.
Dan 8:18 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright. Is it possible that Daniel passed out right in the middle of a vision from God? Yes, I think so. After this is all over, Daniel is going to pass out again in vs. 27. Dan 8:19 And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. Dan 8:20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. 8:21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Alexander the Great. Gabriel would go on to explain more about the vision. In vs. 27, Daniel would talk about how he passed again, then did the king’s business.
Flip over to Daniel 9. We’re going to learn more details about Gabriel.
Daniel 9 is fascinating. Long story short. We jump ahead in time. We’ve now reached the 70th year of the prophesied 70 years of desolation. It’s now time to be released and go home. So Daniel prays to God. His prayer is absolutely exhilarating. I highly recommend reading this entire chapter. Daniel is, on the one hand eager to go home and yet, on the other hand, he’s so beautifully humble and respectful of the Lord and His will. Let’s look at the end of his prayer. Dan 9:18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. 9:19O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
And then look at what he says in Dan 9:20 And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Dan 9:21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation (the evening sacrifice, which was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It’s called “evening” because with the Jewish calendar, the new day began at sundown). Dan 9:22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. Dan 9:23 At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. When Gabriel says vision here, I think he means vision in the sense of an unveiling, to consider prophesies he’s about to reveal to him. Prophesy is part of revelation. Revelation primarily means that truth has been made known to man which he could never learn through his experience alone. And what does Gabriel reveal? He unveils one of the most crucial prophesies in the entire Bible, which are the prophesies about the 70 weeks, which is nothing less than the foundation to the entire prophetic program.
But new details are given to us about Gabriel. Whereas in the previous chapter he said that Gabriel had the appearance of a man, here, he says even the man Gabriel and he adds that he was caused to fly swiftly and touched him. Whereas Gabriel appeared to Daniel in a vision in the previous chapter, Gabriel makes a literal appearance in this chapter, which speaks to the importance of the prophesies about the 70 weeks. This was so important that Gabriel actually makes a personal appearance to Daniel to share that prophesy. Just as Gabriel had appeared as a man in the vision in the previous chapter, Gabriel literally, physically appears as a man in his presence. We learn that angels are, as they say in sci-fi stories, “shape-shifters.” They have the ability to completely transform their appearance from a spiritual form into a physical form. How is this even possible? How is it that ministering spirits can transform themselves into physical men? Gabriel isn’t the only one to do this either. The angels that appeared to Lot at the gates of Sodom appeared as men, although Lot immediately knew they were angels. And they ate a big feast with him! They may have also laid down to sleep in Gen. 19:4. And this kind of thing will happen during the tribulation, as well. You might recall how the writer of Hebrews says in Heb 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. There will be times when believers will interact and entertain angels who are so lifelike as humans, they won’t even realize that they’re angels! How is all of this possible? How is it that ministering spirits can transform themselves into physical men? With God, we know, that all things are possible, and we accept what we’re told on faith because it exists in the Word of God.
Here’s another question. Daniel also said of Gabriel that he had been caused to fly swiftly. As soon as Daniel began praying, God commanded Gabriel to fly swiftly from the third Heaven all the way down to the Earth to meet Daniel in person. You remember in Ezekiel 1, he said that those Cherubims ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning (Ezek. 1:14). Angels move like lightning! That’s how fast they are! Remember when Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, he flew down to the earth at the speed of lightning. The Lord said in Luk 10:18 I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. They move at lightning speed! So, Gabriel, who is likely able to move at the speed of lighting like all the other angels, he had to speed things up to get to Earth. He had to be even swifter than normal when he traversed that great distance from Heaven all the way to the Earth. To say he was caused to fly swiftly, does that not mean that he had to move faster than the speed of lightning? That’s really fast! Another question. Does the fact that Gabriel was commanded to fly swiftly mean that he, in his natural state, has wings? It’s possible, but we don’t know. The majority of angels don’t have wings. So how do they fly? Plus, how does an angel fly through outer space? Does he have a jetpack or something? I’d suggest that the rules of the physical realm do not apply to the spiritual realm. It may be possible that since the rules of the physical realm do not apply to the spiritual realm, anything in the spiritual realm can move about in any fashion they desire OR they all simply take rides on what I lovingly like to call the “Crazy Holy Spirit Transportation Service.”
I have another question. We’re not going to read this tonight. We’ll read this next week, but in the next chapter, Daniel 10, Daniel gets a vision. God sends a regular angel to the earth to give the interpretation. Daniel waits 21 days before the angel shows up. This angel explains that God immediately sent him, but he says in Dan 10:13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. So high-ranking demons over the kingdom of Persia withstood that angel. God had to send Michael the archangel to fight them and release him so that he could reach the Earth. My question is – why didn’t those high-ranking demons over the kingdom of Persia try to stop Gabriel from reaching the Earth? In chapter 10, Daniel waited 21 days for the angel to show up. Here in chapter 9, Gabriel shows up before he’s even finished praying! He said in 9:21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. Why didn’t the demons try to stop Gabriel? I would just suggest that because we know Gabriel’s name, this implies not only that he’s an exceptionally elite, high-ranking angel but he’s also likely amongst the most powerful of angels, at that level of Cherubims or greater. His very name means “God is my Strength.” And so the demons didn’t even try to stop him. Or, it could be that Gabriel flew so swiftly that they never had the chance to catch him. Or, they tried to stop them, but Gabriel is so powerful, he swatted them like flies, because clearly nothing slowed down his descent to the Earth to reach Daniel. He arrived on the Earth and changed into the form of a man before Daniel was even finished praying! So in real time, how long does it take for an angel to fly from Heaven to Earth? Presumably, however long it took Daniel to speak those words of prayer.
I would also point out the wonderfully loving manner in which Gabriel spoke to Daniel here. In the previous chapter, Gabriel was rather matter-of-fact with Daniel about the interpretation, but here, he expresses genuine love. Could it be that Gabriel himself was actually excited to have this unique opportunity interact with Daniel in person? He’s so excited to be talking to Daniel face-to-face that he couldn’t help but be overflowing with love! He says in vs. 22, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. Dan 9:23 At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. You can just sense his great love dripping off every word he spoke! Notice also how he says, for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter… Gabriel draws him in to listening to him not out of respect for God’s power and sovereignty but because of the intimate nature of his relationship with God. He’s to listen because God loves him. But Gabriel’s broad statement infers a love beyond just God Himself. God isn’t the only one who loves him. The angels love him, too. He is greatly beloved amongst all the host of Heaven! Would this not be true today? Remember, the Lord said in Luk 15:10 that …there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. The dispensations may have changed but the nature of angels haven’t changed, nor their love for us, nor their joy when we get saved, nor their joy at us embracing the fellowship of the mystery and serving Christ in grace. Consider this. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 6:3 that we shall judge angels. All we can gather from that passage is that somehow we’ll have an administrative role over angels. And these angels who know us, who have observed us all our lives, who love us, who have rejoiced at our faith in Christ, would they not be as excited to interact with us just as Gabriel was excited to interact with Daniel? Something we hardly ever think about is the unbelievable affection and amazing loving interaction we’ll be having with the entire heavenly host when we are in our heavenly seats serving the Lord.
Turn to Luke 1. Let’s look at another reference to Gabriel and glean a few more details. Now Gabriel would also appear to Mary in Luke 1 but we’re not going to read that because that story doesn’t reveal anything new about Gabriel.
Luke 1 – Gabriel’s Appearance to Zacharias
Luk 1:9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.Luk 1:10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. We know this story well. This is about John the Baptist’s father Zacharias. He’s a priest “of the course of Abia” whose duty it was to burn incense in the temple in July.
Luk 1:11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. The expression “angel of the Lord”, especially in the OT can at times be a type of theophany, a manifestation of God in the flesh. But that’s not always the case, as we discover here. To figure out if that expression has to do with a theophany, you would have to consider the context. In this context, we know this angel is Gabriel. He’s called an angel. He reveals his name to Zacharias and gives a detail about his importance. So “angel of the Lord” here is only meant to tell us that one of the Lord’s angels has appeared to him.
Luk 1:12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. We don’t know exactly why Zacharias was suddenly frightened, but I suspect it’s for all the same reasons Daniel was frightened when he first met Gabriel.
Luk 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. Luk 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. Luk 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. Luk 1:16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. Luk 1:17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luk 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. Luk 1:19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. Then Gabriel tells Zacharias, as we all know, that he’ll be unable to speak until John the Baptist is born.
What else do we learn about Gabriel? This was probably a vision. When Zacharias leaves the temple and he’s visibly shaken and unable to speak, vs. 22 tells us that the people perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, and they’re probably right. Gabriel here is very matter-of-fact just as he was with Daniel when he appeared to him in a vision. And yet, Gabriel would make a personal appearance to Mary. Luk 1:26 tells us that in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth… Again, his personal appearance to Mary conveys the immense importance of what’s going to be said about the miraculous virgin birth of the Messiah. When Gabriel shows up in a vision, it’s important. When Gabriel shows up in person, he’s about the share some news so big it’ll rock the entire prophetic program. I also think all the words he said to Mary was just as loving as the words he said to Daniel.
Let’s add up all the details we learned about Gabriel and see what he was.
Gabriel is only called an angel in vs. 18. He tells Zacharias that he stands in the presence of God. What class of angels also abides in the presence of God? The Cherubims. We also know that just for the fact that we’re given his name, he must then be a high-ranking angel of some kind. From the accounts in Daniel, we also learn that he can shape-shift, as all angels seem to be able to do. He can transform himself from a ministering spirit into a physical man. He can fly. And we also suspect that because none of the demons tried or could stop him from reaching the Earth, that he is also very powerful. His very name means “God is my Strength.” It’s possible Gabriel could be a Cherubim, but we don’t know. Peter said in 1Pe 3:22 that Christ is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. The angels and authorities and powers would seem to indicate that there are innumerable classes and varieties of angels such that we couldn’t possibly know them all and Gabriel may be something other than a Cherubim that God has chosen to not reveal to us. We’re not told his class nor his title, and all we know is that he’s been sent by God to come down to the earth to declare some of the most important prophesies in all of Scripture. The prophesies about the 70 weeks is central to the entire prophetic program and no announcement is as glorious as his news to Mary about the incarnation and birth of Christ. We mentioned earlier that Michael is THE archangel, the “chief angel,” or “the prince of angels.” Yet, it’s interesting that in that verse I mentioned earlier from Dan 10:13 the angel that talks to Daniel doesn’t call Michael the archangel but describes him as “one of the chief princes…” This would seem to imply that there is a leadership team of chief princes, a leadership team of angels, who are over the heavenly host. And yet, amongst that leadership team, there would still be structure and a ranking between those head angels. Michael is the archangel and yet, he is also part of the leadership team of angels, the chief princes of the heavenly host. So I think it’s possible that Michael is the head of all angels and that Gabriel is “a chief prince,” a member of the leadership team of angels over the heavenly host, and he may well be the second in command. We know that he is like all the angels in the sense that he’s a free moral agent. He’s free-willed, independent in thought, yet dependent upon God for life. But beyond that, he has emotions and he’s extremely loving, as he was to Daniel and Mary. Gabriel still exists and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he loves us as much as he loves Daniel, which brings us to the great big picture point to all of this. God isn’t the only one who loves you. The entire heavenly host, the innumerable company of angels, all of heaven itself, loves you beyond words. You are accepted in the beloved, and the entire heavenly host is behind you. They’re all rooting for you. They’re all marveling at the brilliant grace of God at work in your life, and they all want you to grow and to be strong in His grace to fulfill His calling as much as God Himself wants those things. You are loved beyond all comprehension by all of Heaven.