“For you yourselves know very well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying, ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them, just like birth pains on a pregnant woman, and they will by no means escape.” – 1 Thess 5:2,3 – New World Translation
Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the decades have anxiously awaited this foretold cry of “peace and security” which the Watchtower teaches will herald the destruction of the wicked. One Watchtower publication describes this prophesied holocaust in the following gruesome terms:
“Armageddon’s sudden destruction will leave the U.N. in smoldering ruins, and the earth littered with the bodies of the ‘slain of Jehovah’.—Jer. 25:33, 34, AS”
For anyone who has been a Jehovah’s Witness, even if they have since left the organisation, it is very often this particular belief that can be hard to shift. If the cry of peace and security happens then surely everything else, such as the Great Tribulation and Armageddon will happen too, right?
There is that deep down nagging feeling that maybe Jehovah’s Witnesses had it right all along.
The 21st Century: Really the most violent of all?
Throughout history humanity has made various endeavours towards peace. The Watchtower has repeatedly pointed to various peace efforts in the 20th and 21st centuries in an effort to portray such efforts as unusual or unprecedented when compared to previous centuries.
But various declarations of peace, and subsequent treaties made in an attempt to cement these declarations, have been commonplace throughout history. As an example, the 19th century alone had at least one peace treaty (sometimes multiple treaties) of some description enacted in every year apart from 1811, 1845 and 1869.
Before we examine what the Watchtower organisation teaches regarding these efforts towards peace since 1914, I feel that we need to address one particular question: Was the 20th century the most violent in history? Why is this relevant? According to the Watchtower, unprecedented war and violence are part of the sign that we are supposedly in the “last days”.
“‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.’ (Matthew 24:7) Millions of people have been killed in wars during the past century.One British historian wrote: ‘The 20th century was the most murderous in recorded history’” 
Those foretold days are supposed to be the prelude to a series of events which culminate in Armageddon. The first of these events is the cry of Peace and Security that we are discussing here. Thus if our very lives are at stake, surely it is imperative that we examine if these claims of unparallelled violence stand up to scrutiny.
Despite Watchtower’s quoting an unknown historian as proof, the question of whether or not the 20th century was the most violent in history is relatively easy to answer. In order to do so, we need to look at the numbers in context.
Steven Pinker, a Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, has studied this subject matter in detail, and his award winning book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined“, provides some interesting figures.
So, allowing for population growth, which wars have resulted in the most deaths? It is always more accurate to deal in percentages rather than just a precise number.
For example, if one person was murdered in a village in the year 1970, and yet two people were murdered in the same village in the year 1990, it might be assumed that the murder rate had increased by 100%, but this would be untrue. We need to take into account the population of the village.
If the village population was 100 in 1970, the murder rate in that year would be 1%. If the population of the village in 1990 was 400 then the murder rate would only be 0.5% – a 50% reduction in real terms because of the increase in population.
However, it’s immediately obvious from the table Professor Pinker produced, that there have been some extremely bloody and devastating periods of history where millions have been slaughtered in wars before Watchtower’s so called “time of the end.” Savage conflict is most definitely not unique to the 20th or 21st century.
To follow on from this we now need to realise that peace efforts in between conflicts throughout history have been commonplace too. The Watchtower organisation itself recognises that war and peace are cyclical in nature:
“In Europe, for instance, the disturbed period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era was followed by a long period of relative calm. The hard times of the great depression that began in the United States in 1929 and affected the entire world were followed by years of relatively prosperous times in many countries. World events often seem to work in cycles.
So, are the stormy events of our own recent history the prelude to a period of relative peace and security throughout the world?”
Despite having answered their own question that war/peace is cyclical in human history, the Watchtower seems intent on squeezing the facts into a different shape to suit their narrative. Time and again when peace efforts were made in the 20th century the Watchtower publications raise hopes that this will be the foretold cry of peace and security, only to ignore the fact that such efforts are not unusual or specific to this period in history.
Peace and Security: Prophesy or Hype?
Over the years the Watchtower organisation has published numerous magazine articles and books discussing this issue, two books being specifically entitled “True Peace and Security.” Although this has always been a specific teaching of the Watchtower, there definitely seemed to be a more concerted effort to highlight it from the early 1970s onwards.
In addition to magazine articles, in 1973 they released “True Peace and Security – From What Source?” and then again in 1986 a further book entitled “True Peace and Security How Can You Find It? This latter book was published to coincide with the 1986 United Nations International Year of Peace.
When this was published the feeling of anticipation was palpable among Jehovah’s Witnesses – a sense of the imminence of Jehovah’s judgement. Talking specifically about Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:2,3, in Chapter Seven entitled “When Will The Foretold Destruction Come?” we read the following quotation:
“Yet one more event will come as an unmistakable signal that world destruction is imminent… An evidence of this is the proclamation by the United Nations of 1986 as the ‘international year of peace and security.’ This, no doubt, is a step toward the fulfillment of Paul’s above-quoted words.“
Obviously, there was no sudden destruction and the Great Tribulation leading to Armageddon didn’t happen. With the cyclical nature of world history, there have been further conflicts and subsequent efforts towards peace throughout the world.
At this point it is helpful for us to look at how the Watchtower currently views the foretold cry of “peace and security”. The version of the Watchtower teaching that most people seem to be familiar with is summed up in the book Revelation Its Grand Climax At Hand! Published in 1988, this came just after the 1986 UN International Year of Peace and at a time when efforts in the USSR to restructure the regime to be more open were taking place through the policies of glasnost and perestroika.
In Chapter 34, paragraph 14 of the Revelation Climax book, the cry is described as:
“something more pronounced than any previous declarations by world leaders. No doubt it will be on an earth-wide scale.”
However in the September 2006 Kingdom Ministry instructions were given to make numerous changes to the Revelation Climax book. One of these changes was to paragraph quoted above which specifically discusses the cry of peace and security.
“…was Paul referring only to a specific event of such dramatic proportions that it will claim world attention? Since Bible prophecies are often completely understood only after they are fulfilled or in the course of fulfillment, we will have to wait and see. “
In addition and more recently there have been mentions of the cry of peace and security, but they have been surprisingly vague considering the very definite interpretation the Watchtower organisation previously promoted. As an example, in the November 15, 2013 Study Edition of the Watchtower on page 12 they state:
“Who will make this significant future announcement of “Peace and security”? What role will the leaders of Christendom and of other religions have in this? How will the governments be involved? The Bible does not tell us.”
Keeping in mind the considerable fear and anticipation caused by any possible declaration of peace made in previous years, this explanation is rather anticlimactic to say the least. It is very clear that the Watchtower is attempting to distance itself from being too specific in any future interpretations of Bible prophecy. As the years progress and the 20th century becomes but a memory and not an experience shared by those born in the 21st century who are now adults, it is clear that prophecy is a tricky subject and one from which it’s wise to steer clear.
The Cycles of History
In the past few weeks there have been various discussions in the media regarding peace efforts in North Korea. Some Jehovah’s Witnesses and maybe even former Jehovah’s Witnesses many may feel that this is a step towards this cry of peace and security. However, if we learn from history and look objectively at the facts, it’s quite obvious that this peace accord isn’t particularly unusual and is just another in the cycle of our human history.
In conclusion, I wish to assure you that I am not attempting to view world attempts at peace through rose-tinted spectacles, nor am I pointing to any nation, religion or secular organisation as the solution to the problem of war which has dogged humanity throughout the ages.
Being human is a messy business. We can be arrogant, proud, greedy, at times violent and destructive. Yet contrary to the Watchtower organisation’s teachings, we aren’t like that the majority of the time. Humans also have vast capacity for love, kindness, compassion, creativity and peace. Human history has shown that war and peace are a dynamic, cyclical affair.
As the book of Ecclesiastes says:
“What has been is what will be, And what has been done will be done again; There is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9 – New World Translation
Evelyn De L’Ombre
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 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – © 2013 WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY OF PENNSYLVANIA
 Watchtower July 1, 1953 – Too Big for God? – page 391 (bound volume)
 My research is not exhaustive and there may, indeed be treaties/peace accords during the years of 1811, 1845, and 1869, but I was unable to find a record of them during writing this article.
 List of treaties – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:19th-century_treaties
 In 1880 the Right of Protection in Morocco was signed. – https://www.loc.gov/law/help/us-treaties/bevans/m-ust000001-0071.pdf
 What Does the Bible Really Teach? – Chapter 9 – Page 88 – © 2005, 2014
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
 Unfortunately, no reference as to the identity of the historian is made, nor the source of the quote: “One British historian wrote: ‘The 20th century was the most murderous in recorded history. . . . It was a century of almost unbroken war, with few and brief periods without organised armed conflict somewhere.'”
 A History of Violence: Edge Master Class 2011 – Steven Pinker – https://www.edge.org/conversation/mc2011-history-violence-pinker
 The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined Steven Pinker – 2011 – ASIN: B00EJ3APM2
 Awake! April 8, 1974 – World Efforts Towards Better Times – page 4
 True Peace and Security How Can you Find it © 1986 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania – Chapter 7- When Will The Foretold Destruction Come? – page 85
 “In 1986, aware of the term’s historical and more recent resonance, Mikhail Gorbachev and his advisers adopted ‘glasnost’ as a political slogan, together with the obscure ‘perestroika’. Glasnost was taken to mean increased openness and transparency in government institutions and activities in the Soviet Union (USSR).” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasnost#Glasnost_and_Gorbachev
 “Perestroika (/ˌpɛrəˈstrɔɪkə/; Russian: Перестро́йка, IPA: [pʲɪrʲɪˈstrojkə] was a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s until 1991 and is widely associated with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (meaning “openness”) policy reform. The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring,” referring to the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perestroika
 Revelation Its Grand Climax at Hand! © 1988 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.