Apocalypse Versus Religion

The scholars who describe Paul as an apocalyptic theologian will often set "the apocalypse of Jesus Christ" over against "religion."

Here's the distinction.

Religion sets out a pathway that humans are to walk to approach God. This pathway generally involves moral improvement, participation in rituals and worship, and engaging in ascetical practices. For example, in the Christian religion we strive to be a good person, work for just causes, go to church, pray and fast.

"The apocalypse of Jesus Christ," by contrast, is fundamentally a declaration, the revealing of a new reality, a new order of creation, the turn of the ages. The call isn't for religious observance to "become a good person" but for participation in the new reality God has created.

A simple contrast might be this:

Religion says, "Do this!"

The apocalypse says, "Wake up!"

Another take:

Religion says, "God wants us to go church on Sunday."

The apocalypse says, "I was blind, but now I see."

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