Angelic Close Encounters

Gabriel’s appearance in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel was not his first in the terrestrial setting, but rather the climax in a series of several personal encounters spanning half a millennium. The theme of Gabriel’s revelation reinforced impeccable consistency.

He had a message revealing a future event that would not only change Mary’s life, but dramatically alter the course of earth’s history.

LUKE 1:26, 31-33
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Imagine not just the surprising nature of Gabriel’s spontaneous appearance, but the startling message.

Daniel’s first close encounter with Gabriel around 551 B.C. was the direct response to the prophet’s prayer to God for wisdom. He had asked God for understanding concerning a vision that revealed the future emergence of four Gentile world empires (Dan. 8).

Sometime later, Gabriel made another appearance detailing the familiar calendar of 70 weeks of years consummating God’s plan for Israel that will culminate in the coming of Messiah.

With pinpoint accuracy authenticating that he was indeed a divine messenger sent directly from God, the angel Gabriel outlined a specific timeline predicting Messiah’s presentation to Israel, which was fulfilled with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Dan. 9:20-27; cf. Mt. 21:1-9).

More than five centuries after his appearances to Daniel, the temple priest Zacharias had a close encounter with Gabriel. As Zacharias offered incense in the Holy Place, Gabriel suddenly appeared to the right side of the altar. Reassuring a startled and terror-stricken Zacharias, Gabriel self-identified as a high-ranking angel, “who stands in the presence of God” (Lk. 1:11-19).

Consistent with his previous messages to Daniel, Gabriel further revealed a vital component in God’s Messianic program. Zacharias was informed that he and his wife Elizabeth would be blessed with a son in their advanced age. More importantly, Gabriel emphasized their son would,

“. . . go before Him [Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:17).

Jesus Christ Himself later confirmed the fulfillment of Gabriel’s prophecy in the person of John the Baptist (Mt. 11:7-14; 17:10-13).

Six months later, a young virgin named Mary living in the town of Nazareth had a close encounter with Gabriel. There were no screams of terror, no panicked attempts to escape and little to suggest a frightening experience in the biblical record.

In light of the sudden presence of an angel in close proximity to her, Mary’s uneasiness focuses more on the intent of his greeting: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women(Lk. 1:28).

As in his encounters with Daniel, Gabriel appeared as a man. His message to Mary is also consistent with and inseparably linked to the prophecies he revealed to Daniel and Zacharias. In declaring that Mary would be Messiah’s human mother, Gabriel explained:

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:32-33).

Gabriel’s prophecy was confirmed on the night of Jesus’ birth when the sky suddenly burst into light and an angel accompanied by the vast heavenly host proclaimed, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11).

Gabriel’s message was unprecedented and assured the unfolding of God’s Messianic plan. His predictions were confirmed through eye-witness testimony of people who personally experienced life-changing angelic close encounters. When we say Merry Christmas, we’re proclaiming the fulfillment of the message as prophesied by the angel Gabriel!

1) The Annunciation, (c. 1914). (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)/[PD- US, PD-Art]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
2) Annunciation. (Two images of the same subject used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: Pixabay/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)

Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.