What does the “upper room” have in its significance in the Bible? What was the upper room?
The Upper Room in the Old Testament
The first mention of having an upper room was significant as there was an upper room in the Temple of God where David instructed his son Solomon as “David gave Solomon his son the plan of the vestibule of the temple, and of its houses, its treasuries, its upper rooms, and its inner chambers, and of the room for the mercy seat; and the plan of all that he had in mind for the courts of the house of the Lord, all the surrounding chambers, the treasuries of the house of God, and the treasuries for dedicated gifts” (1st Chron 28:11-12). This and the other references to upper rooms do not precisely fit the meaning or context of those found in the New Testament. For example, Jeremiah writes “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, who says, ‘I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion” (Jer 22:13-14) so the spacious upper rooms were typically reserved for temples and people who had money to construct and live in such dwellings. Jeremiah references the upper rooms as something that the rich have possession of.
The Upper Room and the Church
Almost immediately after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples or apostles “returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:12-14). The upper room in this case may have only been used because it had adequate space for the apostles to meet in. This may have not only given them adequate space but also the privacy that an upper room might have afforded. They needed a place to fellowship, to pray, and be of “one accord,” somewhat similar to the upper room experience when Jesus and the disciples met for the Lord’s Supper.
The Upper Rooms in the Early Church
It seems that the upper rooms were where many of the miraculous healings took place, including raising some to life. Tabitha was one such example. She had died so then “Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:39-40). The upper room provided privacy for the deceased Tabitha to lie as it was more secluded than the rest of the house’s rooms. On another occasion, the size of the upper room afforded space enough for Paul to preach to a large contingent of believers as “There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered” (Acts 9:8). Even so, it was so large of an assembly that “a young man named Eutychus” had to sit in a window (Acts 9:9) so the upper room provided a place large enough for a big group to meet and one that provided adequate privacy for the preaching of the Word by Paul.
The Upper Room and Christ
When Jesus was about to go to the cross on Calvary, His disciples asked Him “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover” (Mark 14:12) and Jesus told them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us” (Mark 14:13-15). Apparently, Jesus had prearranged the use of the upper room from this man. This upper room was already furnished for the Passover Meal and so He tells the disciples that this is where they were to go and prepare for it which must have included the wine and the meal for the so-called love feast.
Jesus is our Passover Lamb that shed His blood voluntarily for the remission of sins and to enable us to have eternal life. Today, instead of having Jesus’ disciples prepare an upper room for Him, Jesus is preparing an “upper room” for us but this upper room is in the kingdom. Jesus told the disciples before His death and resurrection, and I believe He tells believers today, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). He reassures them and He reassures our hearts that “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18) because “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)? I am so ready to go to that place. What about you?
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.