In August of 2014, social media timelines were inundated with reports of comedian Robin Williams’ suicide. His death sparked an avalanche of posts linking to his legacy as a comedian through movie clips, interviews, and even an unfortunate, awkwardly timed episode dealing with the subject. Any time such attention is brought to suicide, after the initial psychoanalysis by everyone who is suddenly an expert, comes the rumblings of a question that arises from time to time among believers and curious non-believers alike, “Does someone who commits suicide automatically go to hell?”
Before we begin to look at what Scripture says, a few guideposts:
- This post will deal with the classical definition of suicide and what happens to its victims. By “classical”, I’m referring to folks who are aware of their surroundings and have some level of normalcy and their wits about them. What I’m not referring to are those who are in special circumstances such as folks who are mentally ill to the point of not being capable of comprehending the most elementary dialogue or telling right from wrong.
- We must understand that every situation is different and must be handled with grace and mercy (lest we forget how graceful and merciful God dealt with us in our sin).
- The goal of this article is not to paint suicide with a broad brush, but to demonstrate the sufficiency of the work of Christ on the cross in all our sins.
Suicide is sin
Despite a person’s best justification, suicide is a sin. It is sin because, well it’s a direct violation of the 6th commandment, “Thou shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Suicide is in a sense murdering yourself. And just like other sins, it can be forgiven.
Suicide is not an unforgivable sin
Suicide is not an unforgivable sin. Jesus spoke of the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12:22-32. The context is when the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Therefore, suicide is not the unforgivable sin.1
So recognizing suicide as a sin, we turn to the Bible to see how it is dealt with and what hope we can find there in salvation that is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).
Christ Settled the Sin-debt Once and For All
The Bible teaches us that when a person comes into a relationship with Christ Jesus and surrenders unto repentance and faith (Mark 1:15), he or she is forgiven of all sins past, present, and future. Just look at the hope found in these passages (emphasis added):
- All the believer’s sin debt is accounted for…
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
- Christ deals with our salvation in 3 parts:
- We have been saved (past) – Justification;
- We are being saved (present) – Sanctification;
- We will be saved (future) – Glorification
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Christ Saves, Salvation is of the Lord
Christ Jesus, God in the flesh, did not stutter as He breathed His last on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). When a person hears the Gospel (Romans 10:17) and truly comes to surrender and know Christ as Savior (not simply a decision, a repeated prayer, signing a card, raising a hand, or walking an isle), something known as regeneration takes place. It is the moment that the Holy Spirit does a work in the believer and their heart of stone turns to a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) and falls under conviction. They begin to love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates (Acts 9:1-20). The “heart” or control center is no longer satisfied with the things of this world but only in Christ, though temptation does exist every day.
Christ is Able to Secure Your Future
Now, let’s consider that the believer (as described above) commits suicide. Is there any hope in what we just read in the Scriptures that can comfort those of us who have had loved ones who were believers murder themselves?
Absolutely. The truth of the matter is, you cannot lose what you didn’t earn. The truth of the matter is, Christ cannot, will not, nor has He ever lost a Christian! What verse below gives any indication that a true Christian (as evidenced by repentance and faith and the description above) can be lost in one moment of weakness (suicide)? Look at the text! (emphasis added)…
- “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
- “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)
- “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37)
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24)
- “ In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Gospel-less Claims About Suicide Victims
So back to the original misconception that many believe those who commit suicide instantly go to hell…
Here are the two most common arguments heard to defend that position…
- Argument: “Truly regenerate Christians can lose their salvation, just read Hebrews 6:4-6…”
Answer: Commonly we see people point to Hebrews 6:4-6 as proof that a true Christian can lose their salvation and go to hell, thus suicide is an instant example of that. However, if we dig a little into the text the keyword here is “enlightened”. The passage says, “those who have once been enlightened” (emphasis added). That is not mean they were genuinely saved (regenerated as described above), but exposed to the Gospel.
- Argument: “A Christian would go to hell for suicide because unlike other sins, they do not have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness or repent…”
Answer: This is probably the position many folks take. At first, it sounds reasonable. However, refer to the beginning of this post and we find evidence that Christ died for all sins of believers past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14).
Additionally, if a believer’s security of salvation was based on his or her ability to confess all of their sins, no one would ever go to heaven! It is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Bad News, Good News
Tragically, there are some who have heard the Gospel and rejected it. Or even casually dismissed it and thought they would get around to it when they are ready to settle down. And in their rebellion against Christ as Savior, they instead live their lives autonomously refusing to bend their will towards Christ in surrender. Those will in fact perish in hell for eternity. -Not because they committed suicide, but because they rejected the free offer of salvation through the one true Savior, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It is very likely they’ll hear the chilling words Christ speaks, “‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”(Matthew 7:23). Sadly there is nothing that one can do after he or she dies. You die then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27), this negates other thoughts known as purgatory or praying for the dead.
From these texts, we can discern that should a believer fall in a moment, and commit suicide, he or she would be received into heaven:
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,”
To believe that you MUST be in a “saved state” or “completely repentant” state before you die, then you are ultimately relying on works righteousness to save you. After all, which of your sins did Christ NOT die for?
Soli Deo Gloria!