The best illustration of what this means is presented to us in considerable fullness in the New Testament, and particularly in Paul’s letters. We can narrow these down to two: ‘Corinthians’ and ‘Ephesians’. One is the earthly; the other is the heavenly. What is meant by the earthly is clear in 1 Corinthians, especially for our present point in the early part. Implying that it is wrong for supposedly spiritual people to be or to act so, the Apostle uses the words: “Are ye not men?” (3:4) This clearly means, as the context shows, that spiritual and heavenly people are not allowed to proceed as the rest of men do. The immediate connection (although it applies to all the other things) is that of divisions and circles bearing particular names and taking the character of natural preferences. This might be temperamental, doctrinal, emotional, intellectual, or ‘spiritual'(?). Whatever the causes or occasions, Paul says this behavior is “natural” and “carnal” – it is acting as “men”. In a word, it is earthly. At best, he says, it is childish, or ‘babyish’; it does not signify any spiritual stature. Looking at Christianity today by this standard, we cannot fail to be painfully impressed with how little the Church has grown up.
But that is the negative side. When we turn to ‘Ephesians’, we find ourselves in the presence not only of the oft-repeated words “the heavenlies”, but of the realities and characteristics of that realm. Here is the “one body”. Here is the “unity of the Spirit”. Here is heavenly wealth, walk, warfare. Here is relatedness and inter-relatedness. The Apostle, nay, the Holy Spirit has no restraint in giving out of the fullness, that it may lead again to the fullness of Christ. Here are the measureless dimensions of eternal thoughts, counsels, purpose, and love. Here is ascendency over disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and earthly limitations. Here is grace transcendent and triumphant. Yes, truly we are on heavenly ground here while all those things are bitterly true down below. To be “seated together with him (Christ) in the heavenlies” is no mere ideal, fantasy, illusion, beautiful concept, or sublime teaching; it is real because of the literal counter-realities to which it is set in contrast.