THE entire Bible is, in effect, a message from heaven, having been provided by our heavenly Father for our instruction. However, two special messages were delivered nearly 2,000 years ago by an angel who “stands near before God.” His name is Gabriel. Let us examine the circumstances of these two important visits to earth.
The year is 3 B.C.E. In the Judean hills, probably not too far from Jerusalem, lives a priest of Jehovah by the name of Zechariah. He has grown old, and so has his wife Elizabeth. And they have no children. Zechariah is taking his turn at priestly service in God’s temple in Jerusalem. Suddenly Gabriel appears at the right side of the incense altar.
Zechariah is very much afraid. But Gabriel quiets his fears and says: ‘God has heard your prayers. Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. He will get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.’ But Zechariah cannot believe it. It seems so impossible that, at their age, he and Elizabeth could have a child. So Gabriel says, ‘Because you have not believed me, you will not be able to speak until these things happen.’
Well, in the meantime, the people outside are wondering why Zechariah is taking so long in the temple. When he finally comes out, he cannot speak but can only make signs with his hands, and they realize he has seen something supernatural.
After Zechariah finishes his period of temple service, he returns home. And soon afterward it really does happen—Elizabeth becomes pregnant! While she waits for her child to be born, Elizabeth stays at home away from people for five months.
Look! Gabriel appears again. And to whom does he speak? It is to a young unmarried woman by the name of Mary from the town of Nazareth. What message is he delivering this time? Listen! ‘You will become pregnant and have a baby boy, and you must name him Jesus,’ Gabriel says. ‘He will be a great king, and his kingdom will never end.’
We can be sure that Gabriel felt privileged to deliver these messages. And as we read more about John and Jesus in future issues of this magazine, we will see more clearly just why these messages from heaven are so important. 2 Timothy 3:16; Luke 1:5-33.