Gabriel is one of only three high-ranking angels mentioned in the entire Bible. What is this holy angel’s role in God’s affairs and in human affairs?
Yet only three high-ranking angels are mentioned in the Bible: Lucifer, Michael and Gabriel. (Abaddon and Apollyon, Hebrew and Greek names meaning Destruction and Destroyer in Revelation 9:11, are believed to be additional names for Lucifer.)
Angels of high position
First, what are angels? In Greek, the word for angel is aggelos (pronounced ang-el-os). Its meanings include “a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, a messenger from God” (Strong’s Lexicon).
The Bible clearly shows us that the three high-ranking angels were given especially great responsibilities. Lucifer was formerly called a “covering cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14, 16), a title that indicates an honorable responsibility. However, Lucifer sinned and is now a fallen angel called Satan (Revelation 12:9).
Michael is called “one of the chief princes,” “your prince” and “great prince” (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1). His role includes standing as a watchman or guardian over God’s people. Michael is the only angel clearly called an archangel (Jude 9). The word archangel in Greek is archaggelos. It means “archangel,” or “chief of the angels” (Strong’s Lexicon). Please see our article “Archangel Michael” to learn more about the important role of this angel.
The third high-ranking angel is Gabriel, the subject of this article. Gabriel is a personal name, meaning “strong man of God” (Holman Bible Dictionary, “Gabriel”).
Even though Jewish tradition (including the noncanonical book of Enoch) identifies Gabriel as one of seven archangels, the Bible does not actually state that Gabriel is an archangel. Yet Gabriel clearly has a high position among the angels since his name is mentioned in God’s Word along with Lucifer and Michael.
The Bible’s reference to Michael as “one of the chief princes” also implies that there are others of his exalted rank among those who are also called “princes” (Daniel 10:13). Based upon these points, Gabriel may indeed be an archangel like Michael.
Gabriel’s four recorded messages
Gabriel is identified by name as delivering important prophetic messages to faithful servants of God in four different accounts in Holy Scripture. The first mention of Gabriel is in an appearance to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 8:16). Here Gabriel is summoned to show Daniel the meaning of a vision he had received regarding the kings of Media, Persia and Greece (Daniel 8:15-26).
Then Gabriel appeared to him a second time (Daniel 9:21) to give him a prophecy regarding the time Christ would appear and fulfill His ministry (verses 25-27). For further study of this subject, please see our article “70 Weeks of Daniel: What Does the Prophecy Mean?”
In an insightful glimpse into the spirit world, we find Daniel praying and humbling himself for 21 days, seeking God’s understanding of a previous vision that had left him greatly distressed (Daniel 10:2-3, 12, 16). An angel then appeared to Daniel to bring him the understanding he had asked for (verse 12). Although we aren’t told this angel’s name, it may have been Gabriel since Gabriel had come to Daniel previously. This angel explained to Daniel that he was restrained from coming earlier, but that Daniel’s prayer had been heard from the start (verses 13-14).
A contentious spirit being called “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” was strong enough to block this angel from coming to Daniel to speak with him (verse 13). The angel was delayed for those three weeks until the archangel Michael could come to his aid and overthrow the restraint of this demonic “prince.” After delivering the message to Daniel, the angel explained he must return again to fight with “the prince of Persia” and that “the prince of Greece” would follow (verse 20).
This account helps us understand that there is an ongoing, invisible battle in the spirit realm. There are rulers of darkness—Satan and his demons—who are constantly attempting to thwart God’s plan of salvation for humans (Ephesians 2:1-3; 6:11-13; Revelation 12:7). God, who is all powerful, intervenes with the assistance of His angels as He deems necessary to further His cause of redeeming humanity (Psalm 34:7; Romans 8:37-39; Hebrews 1:13-14).
500 years later
Approximately 500 years after Daniel’s time, Gabriel was sent by God to tell the priest Zacharias the joyful news that he and his wife Elizabeth would become the parents of a child named John (Luke 1:13). Even though “Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years,” Gabriel brought the news of this wonderful miracle that would soon occur (verses 7, 19). Gabriel further explained that their son John would be given a very special role “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (verse 17).
It seems that Zacharias and others likely understood the time was very near for the coming of the Messiah ( Luke 2:25; 7:18-19). Now the angelic messenger Gabriel, through whom the prophecy of Christ’s coming was given to Daniel, had come to announce its fulfillment!
Realizing that he and his wife had not been able to have children and were now advanced in years, Zacharias asked how this could be possible. The angel answered, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings” (Luke 1:19). Interestingly, this shows that Gabriel holds a position of high honor—he “stands in the presence of God.” This is the third explicit account of Gabriel delivering a message.
Six months after Elizabeth conceived, God sent Gabriel to deliver a message to her younger relative Mary, who was dwelling in Nazareth of Galilee (Luke 1:26-27). This is the fourth account identifying Gabriel as an angel delivering a message on God’s behalf.
Gabriel told Mary that she, too, would miraculously conceive and that she would give birth to One who would be called Jesus, the Son of the Highest. Gabriel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (verses 35-36).
Did Gabriel appear to John?
Since Gabriel is the only named angel in the Bible who has brought messages to God’s people, it is quite possible that Jesus Christ sent the words of the book of Revelation to the apostle John through this same angel (Revelation 1:1-2).
Regardless of the identity of the angel in the book of Revelation, an important concept for us to understand is that God’s overall purpose for humanity will be fulfilled. As God said through the prophet Isaiah, “The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand’” (Isaiah 14:24).
Gabriel and the other righteous angels serve as “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). These angels assist God the Father and Jesus Christ in Their plan to allow humans who repent of their sins and who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior to become members of God’s eternal family.
Will you be among those who receive salvation when Christ returns? To learn what is expected of those who will be granted eternal life, we encourage you to explore the section on “Change.”