In The Time That Remains, a commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans, Agamben attempts “rescue” Messianic time from its common misconception as eschatology; this distinction, he argues, is essential to Paul’s letters. A Messianic conception of history does not wait for the Messiah to come (i.e., for the end of history), but is instead a paradigm of historical time in which we act as though the Messiah is already here. As Agamben has pointed out, this is not an apocalyptic vision of history; “the Messianic is not the end of time, but the time of the end.” Such time does not wait for a decisive moment but instead sees the present as "now-time." Another word for this is kairos (often translated as occasion, but in Paul’s sense, properly Messianic), which is traditionally opposed to chronos (chronological or secular time). Both concepts, Agamben points out, are necessarily interlaced such that “kairos is nothing more than seized chronos, a time remaining.” Messianic time, says Agamben, rather enigmatically, is the relation itself. The difference is minute, but it is also decisive.
For Paul, this means that we will retain out distinctions (callings, vocations), but they will cease to divide us—such categories (circumcision, for example) become “nothing.” For Paul, the divisions of law are not forgotten or annihilated, but are rendered "inoperative." The community that Paul is attempting to assemble is both inside and outside the law.
Benjamin’s “real state of exception” coincides with the messianic interruption. As Agamben points out in Homo Sacer, “from the juridico-political perspective, messianism is . . . a theory of the state of exception—except for the fact that in messianism there is no authority to proclaim the state of exception; instead, there is the Messiah to subvert its power.” Benjamin emphasizes that a connection to the Messiah is not to be created from this side of history.
Benjamin's conception of messianic time (now-time) shows us that we have something in common with the past, and lives in the faith that we will have something in common with the future.