Joy in the upper room image

Return To the Upper Room

More than ever there is a need for the church to return to the Upper Room. The Lord has laid it strongly on my heart is time for the Church to rediscover the importance of the Upper Room in our spiritual walk. But then we need to understand what the Upper Room is, and what it truly means. For it was more than the place where the Holy Spirit was poured out. Yes, so much more.

We all know what happened in the Upper Room. We all know the story of Acts 2: 1 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Another translation is as follows: Complete Jewish Bible (CJB): 1 The festival of Shavu‘ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place. 2 Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Oh yes, there in the room, after waiting as instructed by Jesus for the power from on high, 10 days taking into consideration the 40 days before Ascension after the resurrection, the disciples were equipped and empowered by the very presence of God, filling them and enabling them to be witnesses unto the ends of the earth! Glory to God. Yes, there was a wind, for the Spirit is the Rauch Elohim – the very breath of God. Of those born in the Holy Spirit, it says “John 3:8: The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Indeed, of the breath of God, we read in Ezekiel 37 in regards to the prophecy with the dead bones. For the life-giving Spirit of the Living God descended upon the disciples, fulfilling the promise of John 16 verse 7: But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the [a]Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].

Glory to God! And we know what happened beyond the Upper Room. We know of the first sermon that touched the lives of 3000. We know that in Acts 4 verse 3 it says “and with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”. In Acts 5 we read: “12 And through the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also, a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed”.

Yes, great was the impact of the believers. Great was the witnessing of the Lord and so the harvest grew. Why? Because of the Upper Room. Yes, because of the Holy Spirit! They were touched by God, for God is the all-consuming fire. The Upper Room, also known as the Cenacle, is located in the southern part of the Old City of Jerusalem on Mount Zion and is perhaps best known as the traditional site of the Last Supper since the fourth century AD. It was not just the place where the disciples were filled by the Holy Spirit, but it was the place of intimate fellowship with God Himself!

We read in Luke 22: 7 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” 9 So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?” 10 And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11 Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’ 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.” 13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.

Jesus thus set the scene, not man, for it was not going to be any room, but a room chosen by God. He chose Peter and John, loved disciples, for a very important assignment. The Lord had set apart a place not only for the Last Supper but also for the Pentecost. A place for fellowship, just as God has set Moses aside on Mount Sinai for 40 days. According to tradition, this room would become the place where the apostles stayed when they were in Jerusalem. The Cenacle is also where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1–20), which symbolizes the ministry of loving service. It is where the concept of a loving friendship with Jesus was introduced, as set forth in John’s Last Supper discourses (John 14—16), and gave the apostles a glimpse into the beautiful prayer life of Jesus, sometimes known as the “high priestly prayer,” recorded in John 17.

It is the place where the disciples gathered in fear after the death of Jesus. We read in John 20: New King James Version (NKJV): 19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Just as the Spirit descended upon Jesus at the baptism and rested upon Him in Power for the work of His earthly ministry, so also the disciples were regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit of the resurrected Christ before Pentecost. But at Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out upon them in power, because Christ had ascended to the throne of God and received all authority and power. Yes, in the Upper Room what Jesus started by breathing upon them the Spirit comes into completion with the outpouring of the Ruach Elohim! So we, therefore, find the Risen Lord breathing on them the Holy Spirit “on the evening of that first day of the week” (John 20:19). It is from there that the apostles went forth with boldness sharing the Good News. All in the power of God, and to the glory of God!

And so by tradition, this is the same room where Jesus appeared, both before and after the resurrection. It was here that the Risen One made visible His wounds to see and touch, and the room where the faith of Thomas emerged. We read of this in John 20: 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples, therefore, said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

It was therefore not just the room where the Spirit was breathed upon them, but also the room from which, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles would ultimately leave to change the world—your world and mine. It is a room where all doubt vanished and the disciples were bolstered in their hope and faith to change the world! This was not a room of fear, but of conviction in the greatness of God.

We read in Psalm 104:30: “Send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” The fruits of Jesus’s life and ministry, as witnessed in the precious moments in the Upper Room documented in Scripture, continue in and through the Church up to today. In this humble space, the most important room in all of Christendom, Jesus set a remarkable precedent of faith and service, and so we are given a new understanding of God’s love and the revolutionary power of the Holy Spirit was unleashed.

Indeed, it is the Upper Room where the disciples were truly molded to be followers of Jesus. They had learned from the Master. They had spent time with God, with each other, and so they learned of fellowship, of unity, of truth, of humanity, of love, of hope and redemption. Yes, so much happened in the Upper Room for it was here that Jesus also told of Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial (John 13:21–30, 36–38). The humanity of each apostle is vibrantly portrayed in the Upper Room, giving us a glimpse into our own hearts and nature, as well as into the unrelenting love of Jesus Christ for his followers.

We also read in Acts 1, before the ascension of Jesus thus during the 40 days after His resurrection: Acts 1: 1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Take note of the following …. “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”. So by all accounts, the Lord spoke to them about the Kingdom, probably many things not recorded before ascending to the Father. We can only imagine the teaching they received, and how their faith was bolstered! For them, Matthew 6 would have really become a reality where Jesus taught to first seek His Kingdom and righteousness. And yes, Moses was on that mountain for 40 days, learning and knowing God, and so it is not by accident that the Lord has also set apart 40 special days after His resurrection to equip His followers for their great work that waited for them. And much of that fellowship would have taken place in the Upper Room! And then, there in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came in glory to take over the work of the Son.

Yes, in the Upper Room the disciples had to make room for God in His Totality as the Trinity! They had to make room for His divinity, presence, and glory, and so they learned, grew spiritually, and in the knowledge of His fullness. Yes, in the Upper Room the disciples understood once and for all Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. They had fellowship with the Risen Lord – the Alpha and the Omega, not just at the Last Supper but even beyond the cross and the tomb. For them, they would have understood more clearly the significance of the Last Supper, where they learned about the cup and the bread. They would have understood the power of the Blood, and that Jesus is the hope of glory!

And yes, by all accounts, the disciples simply replicated what they had experienced in the Upper Room once they were led out in the world under the power of the Holy Spirit. We read of this in Acts 2: 43 A sense of awe was felt by everyone, and many wonders and signs (attesting miracles) were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed [in Jesus as Savior] [k]were together and had all things in common [considering their possessions to belong to the group as a whole]. 45 And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing the proceeds with all [the other believers], as anyone had need. 46 Day after day they met in the temple [area] continuing with one mind, and breaking bread in various private homes. They were eating their meals together with joy and generous hearts, 47 praising God continually, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were being saved.

And also Acts 4: 32 Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one [of them] claimed that anything belonging to him was [exclusively] his own, but everything was common property and for the use of all. 33 And with great ability and power, the apostles were continuously testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace [God’s remarkable loving-kindness and favor and goodwill] rested richly upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling them, and bringing the proceeds of the sales 35 and placing the money down at the apostles’ feet. Then it was distributed to each as anyone had need.

The disciples simply replicated and put into motion what they had learned in the Upper Room! And what had they learned! Yes, what it means to be the true church (ecclesia) and they learned of the Kingdom, and of being a servant.

The Upper Room was also a place of prayer. It says in Acts 1 (following the Ascension): 12 Then the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet (Olive Grove), which is near Jerusalem, [only] a Sabbath day’s journey (less than one mile) away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went upstairs to the upper room where they were staying [indefinitely]; that is, Peter, and John and [his brother] James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew (Nathanael) and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas (Thaddaeus) the son of James. 14 All these with one mind and one purpose were continually devoting themselves to prayer, [waiting together] along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Take note, it says the disciples devoted themselves to prayer. It was therefore a place of unified prayer, and supplication and seeking God’s will. Paul would echo the importance of prayer in Ephesians 6: 18 With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.

To return to the Upper Room is for the Church too, therefore, return to deep prayer life, but also a united prayer life with other disciples. A life of seeking God, seeking His will, and praying as the Spirit leads. Unity is after all so important for the Church, for in the Upper Room the disciples learned of fellowship, of unity, of sharing, of caring, and the power of God’s love. In the Upper Room, they spoke for the first time in other languages, and they knew beyond a doubt that God will be with them as witnesses unto the ends of the earth. No wonder Jesus had to set aside a special place, because He needed to prepare those who were set aside for the Kingdom!

So for us to return to the Upper Room is really to return as disciples to God and His Kingdom, to reconnect, and to learn again about fellowship. It is for us to learn again about unity as children of God, of caring, and sharing. It is about worshiping and fellowshipping with the Risen Lord. In the Upper Room of our spiritual experience, we need to return to the true path of God and once again submit and yield to His presence. How we need to make room again for God, and so dwell and abide in Him. It is a call to return to love, to hope, to the power from on high, and to be a vessel on fire for God. It is a return to the Covenant, to the power of the Blood, a return to our humanity as children of God, and a return to faith beyond doubt and a return to walking in His Glory when beyond the doors the world is dying spiritually.

May we indeed return to the Upper Room of our faith, our relationship, and our walk with Jesus – the Lamb who was slain yet returns as the victorious King! May we indeed walk in the indwelling power of the Spirit to walk in the Lord’s will, to be sanctified, and to know the Truth of the Kingdom. Yes, it is time to return to where the Church truly began, for as the Church we have lost our way for beyond the Upper Room we have strayed from the course and from the Master. May we return with weeping and joy.

Riaan Engelbrecht

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