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God’s staff team: Gabriel

In God’s staff meetings, there are a couple of angels who get the big assignments. They are the only ones mentioned by name: Michael and Gabriel. Let’s look at Gabriel.

When Daniel needed help interpreting one of his visions, God sent Gabriel. “When he came,” said Daniel, “I was frightened and fell on my face” (Dan 8:17). Gabe explains to him that in the future, God’s people will be severely persecuted. What a depressing message! Aren’t angels supposed to say, “Greetings, O favored one!”? Daniel was “overcome and lay sick for days”; he was “appalled by the vision” and he struggled to understand it (8:27).

Later, after reading Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70-year exile, Daniel begins to plead for mercy—until Gabriel interrupts him (Dan 9:2-21). “O Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding … for you are greatly loved” (9:22-23). Now that’s a much nicer greeting! However, Gabriel notifies Daniel that the exile will last, not 70 years, but “70 sevens” (weeks of years = 490 years). Oh, no! Not another depressing message. But wait! The Seventy sevens are decreed to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness … to the coming of an anointed one, a prince (9:24-25). Finally, some good news!

The word “anointed one” means “Messiah/Christ”!

How will Jesus the Christ accomplish all this? As Gabe puts it, the “anointed one shall be cut off and have nothing”—that is, Jesus would die on the cross, forsaken by his disciples and the Father (Dan 9:26). Then “the people of the prince” (the Jewish people) will provoke the Romans to destroy their city and temple (in AD 70)—just like they triggered Babylon’s destruction of Solomon’s temple (587 BC). Even the Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that “the destruction of Jerusalem was entirely the fault of the Jewish people, just as Daniel 9:26 predicts” (cf. Matt 23:37-38; 24:1-2, 24; Luke 21:20).

And what about the “anointed one”? The Messiah “shall make a strong (new) covenant with many … and put an end to sacrifice and offering” once and for all (Dan 9:27). So, no, Gabriel is not talking about an end-time Antichrist making a peace treaty with Israel, then betraying them, and ushering in a seven-year tribulation. Gabriel is talking about the redemptive work of Christ.

So, it makes total sense that Gabriel would show up at the start of the “seventy sevens.”* Zechariah was troubled when he saw Gabe, but Gabe had good news for him (Luke 1:12). Zechariah and Elizabeth would give birth to a son who would prepare the way of the Lord (Luke 1:13-17).

Gabriel’s next stop was Nazareth. Gabriel came to Mary and said, “‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:28-29). It wasn’t Gabriel that troubled Mary; it was what Gabe said to her! In the Bible, the expression, “the Lord is with you,” always means that God wants to do something in and through you. Gabriel waits until Mary consents and then departs from her (Luke 1:38).

Although he is not mentioned again in Scripture, I’m guessing it was Gabriel that came to the shepherds watching their flock by night. Why Gabriel? I think God said, “Go Gabriel! You explained it to Daniel. Now go tell the shepherds, “For unto you is born this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Yes, Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed one of Daniel’s 70 sevens!

*Note: Matthew 1:1-17 arranges Jesus’ genealogy into three groups of 14 generations (six sevens)—which makes Jesus the start of the seventh (seven). In other words, Matthew may have been mindful of Daniel’s seventy sevens and used generations instead of years to count from Abraham to Christ’s birth. 

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God’s staff team: angels on a staircase

We’ve been learning that God’s staff meetings include some delightful characters. There are cherubim, seraphim, and of course, God’s beloved angels! Let’s look at one of Jacob’s encounters with angels. He was camping at the time it happened.
 
Camping can be fun, or it can be a nightmare if it rains! When Jacob went camping, it didn’t rain—but he did have a dream of a stairway “set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it” (Gen 28:12-13). Apparently, stair climbing keeps the angels in tip top shape! Is there a staircase behind the scenes that we don’t know about?!
 
Well, there is a little controversy over the word “it” in this story (“the angels of God were ascending and descending on it … the Lord stood above it”). The Hebrew pronoun here can mean “him” (“the angels of God were ascending and descending on him … the Lord stood above him”). “It” makes the staircase the focus, while “him” makes Jacob the focus. If it’s “him,” then all the going back-and-forth, from heaven to earth, again and again, is to attend to Jacob.
 
Either way, Jacob may have thought he was all alone, but he wasn’t alone at all. The Lord was always with him—and he is always with us.
 
So, when Jesus alludes to Jacob’s dream, he tells Nathanael, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). Does Jesus mean angels will ascend and descend on him, making himself the staircase? Or does Jesus mean that the angels will ascend and descend upon him, making himself the recipient of their care (e.g., Matt 4:11 and 26:53)? Likely both!
 
King Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He not only “upholds the universe by the word of his power”; he’s in charge of sending the angels out to serve those who are to inherit salvation (Heb 1:3, 14). Jesus, “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Pet 3:22). Jesus calls them “his angels” (Matt 13:41; 24:31-32). So, it’s Jesus’ directives that are being carried out by the angels. He’s calling the shots. When angels ascend back to Jesus, they’re ready to receive another assignment.
 
We do not look upon that stairway as if in a dream. Jesus is the connection point between heaven and earth. It is through Jesus that we learn God’s plans. It is through Jesus, and not through dreams, that we know that God is with us to protect and care for us wherever we go. He alone is the way we ascend to our Father in heaven (John 14:6). And it is in Jesus that we will one day descend to a glorious, renewed earth accompanied by his angels.