“The angel answered [Zechariah], ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news’ ” (v. 19).- Luke 1:5-38
Scripture may not give us as much information as we might like about the angels, but what it does tell us is significant. Among other things about angels, we learn from God’s Word that these beings are engaged in a variety of different activities and roles. Thus far, we have seen that at least some angels are tasked with the worship of the Lord in His heavenly throne room (Isa. 6:1–3; Rev. 4). Also, our study has revealed that at least some angels are tasked with watching over nations and fighting spiritual battles (Dan. 10:12–14; 12:1). Today’s passage reveals what may be the most significant role of angels, and that is messenger.
Angelos, the Greek term translated into English as “angel,” essentially means “one who brings a message,” and it sometimes is used in Scripture for human message-bearers. So, bringing messages is inherent to the angelic office. Many examples of angels’ bringing messages to God’s people can be found in Scripture, with one of the more notable of these examples being Gabriel’s visiting the priest Zechariah and Mary to announce the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively (Luke 1:5–38).
Gabriel announces himself as one with the honor of standing in God’s presence (v. 19), and since angels did not converse with people on a regular basis even during biblical times, we can understand why Zechariah might fear the divine message-bearer who came to him (vv. 5–12). But the birth of John is a significant step forward in fulfilling God’s plan of salvation, so it is right for the Lord to send Gabriel to Zechariah. Note that in telling Zechariah that he must name his son “John” and forbidding John to consume strong drink (Luke 1:13–17), Gabriel is presuming to have authority over both the priest and his son. But since Gabriel is essentially God’s mouthpiece, the authority He claims is divine authority. In other words, when God’s angelic messengers speak on behalf of the Lord, they are speaking His words, not their own.
Mary receives an even greater announcement from Gabriel. She hears from this angelic message-bearer that she will bear the one to whom the Lord will give David’s throne (vv. 26–38). In other words, Mary hears that she will be the mother of the Messiah, the one who saves His people from their sins. This message is also given to Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ adoptive father, thus leading finally to the birth of Christ in Bethlehem (Matt. 1:18–2:1).
The pattern of Gabriel’s bringing a message directly to Zechariah and Mary shows that angels speak to God’s people at decisive points in redemptive history. Since the next decisive point in salvation history will be the return of Christ, we should not expect angels to visit us with any messages. Instead, we rely on the all-sufficient Word of God to guide us into all truth (2 Tim. 3:16–17; Heb. 1:1).
Passages for Further Study
2 Thessalonians 1:5–8