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.