Advent 2014: Week 2

The Angel Gabriel


The angel Gabriel delivered Messianic messages to God’s people. As discussed last week, one such message was given to Mary and recorded by Luke.

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 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 bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1: 26 – 37

This New Testament interaction with Mary can be compared to Gabriel’s Old Testament interaction with the prophet Daniel. That interaction occurred during the days of the exile.

Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision. Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and having nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. Daniel 9: 20 – 26

Notice the consistency in the Old and New Testament accounts, regarding Gabriel’s encouraging demeanor. He called Mary “favored one” and Daniel “highly esteemed”. Notice also how in each passage the day of the Messiah’s arrival is not explicitly stated, but indirectly referenced.

Testament Indirect Reference
Old So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks…Daniel 9: 25
New And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. Luke 1: 36

Gabriel told Daniel that the timeline for determining the Messiah’s arrival starts with the “issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”. And obviously with Mary, she would give birth nine months after conception. Gabriel placed her conception in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. One can start with these clues and perform a study, incorporating both Biblical and extra-Biblical data, to approximate the month and year of Jesus’ birth.

More interesting than the similarities in the messages given to Mary and Daniel is a major difference noticed in the texts. When Gabriel spoke to Mary, he told her she would give birth to the Messiah, the promised King of Israel, and that He would rule forever and His kingdom would have no end. But when Gabriel spoke to Daniel, he told him that the Messiah would at some point be “cut off and have nothing”. Furthermore, he said that Jerusalem (the home of the king) and the temple (the house of God) would be destroyed. This is certainly a conundrum – would the Messiah rule forever or would He be cut off?

This riddle is resolved by the resurrection of Jesus. When Gabriel told Daniel the Messiah would be cut off and have nothing, this was a prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus. When on the third day Jesus rose from the grave, His claim to be God’s Messiah was vindicated and His claim to be King of the Jews made certain. Thus in the resurrection of Christ, Gabriel’s words to Mary were definitively fulfilled.

Now what about Gabriel’s words regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple? Historically, it is undeniably true – Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. It is the reason for the destruction that is debated. Secularists would simply say it is another example of a nation warring against a nation. Christians would say that the city and temple were destroyed because the Jews rejected the Messiah (Jesus Himself spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem). A rejection of God’s Messiah is a rejection of God Himself, and there were curses in the Mosaic Covenant associated with rejecting God.

It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. Deuteronomy 28: 63

The Jews are hard pressed, I think, to explain the destruction of their city. The destruction and scattering of the Jewish people, Biblically, is always associated with their sin and God’s enactment of the covenant curses. What was the great sin they committed, warranting the destruction of their city, if it was not the rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and disbelieving the words Gabriel spoke to Daniel about the cutting off of Messiah?

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