I have taught the book of Revelation roughly a dozen times over the years, from a group of high school students sitting on my living room floor in 1990 on to a classroom of adults in about 2011. I've read the book itself and studied the historical and cultural and political context of the New Testament period as deeply as I know how over the years in order to better understand not only the book of Revelation, but the entire New Testament.
This kind of in-depth study carries huge benefits. I feel like I understand far more today than I did a couple decades ago about the most important documents in my world and what they really mean (and don't mean). Devotionally speaking, I know Jesus better for having studied his words in depth and in context. I know the church better having dissected the words of the earliest church leaders. I can discern better today what is biblical and what is not.
This is not to say that I have arrived or that I know all that I want. Far from it. In fact, probably farther today than it ever has been, as I can see much more of what I don't know today than I could years ago.
This kind of study carries peripheral benefits, too -- like when I was trying last Saturday to memorize my script for tonight's Maundy Thursday portrayal of the Apostle John reflecting on the book of Revelation. My brain is getting older, and crystallizing a bit, I'm afraid. I could not for the life of me get that script in my head, not even after eighteen dramatic readings of it.
So starting Saturday, with the gracious permission of my director, I rewrote the script. Finished it Wednesday morning. Wrote it from the perspective of John in his original context talking about the situation in which he received the vision that became the book of Revelation.
Tonight I delivered that monologue (a little over twenty minutes) without notes. Twice. To packed houses.
I firmly believe that is a testimony, first and foremost, to the graciousness of the Holy Spirit. But secondly it speaks of one peripheral value of investing deeply, over time, in studying the Bible. It pays off in ways you might not expect.
If you want to see the portrayal, you can watch it here.