Paul has been underappreciated as an apocalyptic figure, though this, to some extent, is being remedied more recently.
He doesn’t write apocalyptic literature, but he writes from within an apocalyptic frame of reference. God has acted to transform all creation by his resurrection power, and the cosmically significant redemption must be embodied by a completely new and renewed social order – the church of Jesus Christ.
In Paul and the Faithfulness of God, N. T. Wright, writing about the metaphorical language associated with dramatic historical upheavals, captures nicely this relationship between apocalyptic and the social embodiment of new political realities.
‘Apocalyptic’ literature, whether in the second-Temple Jewish world or early Christianity, seems to be designed to give its hearers and readers an alternative frame of reference within which to live their lives, an alternative narrative to that which the world’s power-brokers are putting out, an alternative symbolic universe to reshape their imagination and structure their worldview. People whose worldviews are thus realigned may not instantly form political parties or take up arms to march against enemies, but they will live differently. The ruling powers of the world will find them, at least from time to time, inconvenient and uncooperative. There can be no doubt that this was the effect which was created by the early Christians, not least by Paul, and we have good reason to think that their use of ‘apocalyptic’ language, exactly in the tradition of the second-Temple Jews, was a significant part of how this effect was generated. They did not expect the stars to fall from the sky. They did expect the creator God to do extraordinary things for which comets, earthquakes and other portents might be powerful and appropriate metaphors (p. 175).