Q: 1 Thess. 5:3 says that whenever they are saying peace and security then sudden destruction will come instantly upon them. What I want to know first of all is, are we to expect some notable proclamation of peace and security before Armageddon; and from where does it come, from the world or the Watchtower Society? Are there other scriptures that shed light on this subject?
to the New World Translation, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 reads: "Now as for
the times and the seasons, brothers, YOU need nothing to be written to YOU. For
YOU yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief
in the night. Whenever [όταν] it is that they are saying:
'Peace and security!' then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them
just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means
escape. But YOU, brothers, YOU are not in darkness, so that that day should
overtake YOU as it would thieves, for YOU are all sons of light and sons of day.
We belong neither to night nor to darkness."
Note that the NWT has Paul referring to "Jehovah's day" as "coming exactly as a thief in the night," whereas in the Greek manuscripts it is "the day of the Lord." What is the "day of the Lord"? Is it Jehovah's day at Armageddon? (Zeph. 1:14; Rev. 16:14, 16) In the same letter, Paul earlier mentions "the presence of our Lord Jesus." (1 Thess. 3:13; 4:15) And in his second letter to the Thessalonian congregation, Paul continues to explain developments in connection with the presence or "revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength, at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones and to be regarded in that day with wonder in connection with all those who exercised faith, because the witness we gave met with faith among YOU." (2 Thess. 1:7-10; NWT)
Paul is talking about the time of Jesus' return, when "he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones," while bringing everlasting destruction upon those "who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus." It seems that the brothers in Thessalonica were discussing, probably speculating, and perhaps even arguing, about the timing of Jesus' return and being united with him, for Paul goes on to explain: "However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of YOU not to be quickly shaken from YOUR reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here." (2 Thess. 2:1,2; NWT)
Again, what the NWT calls "the day of Jehovah," is in the Greek manuscripts called "the day of the Lord," this clearly referring to the presence and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why does the Watchtower Society's New World Translation make a distinction between "the day of Jehovah" and "the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ"? Because, according to the Society, Jesus is already ruling in his heavenly kingdom and has been present for the past one hundred years―since 1914; and yet, the things that Paul foretold in connection with Christ's presence have not as yet come true. Therefore, the Society looks to the still future "day of Jehovah" as fulfilling the missing events. To be sure, the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven will be at Armageddon, as described by the apostle John in the book of Revelation; at which time Paul's prophecy will find its fulfillment. (Rev. 19:11-21)
The Greek word translated as "whenever," in the New World Translation at 1 Thessalonians 5:3, is όταν [otan], which is rendered as "when" at Matthew 25:31: "When the Son of man arrives in his glory." (Compare Mark 2:20). Most other translations read when or while at 1 Thess. 5:3. Thus, the English Standard Version reads: "For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." Translating όταν as "Whenever it is that they are saying: 'Peace and security," makes it appear that there will be a notable proclamation or announcement of "peace and security" just prior to the sudden destruction of the wicked. But is that the thought Paul is conveying?