When it comes to Theology, it’s easy to ponder and solve life’s great mysteries in the realm of the hypothetical. We pose the question: “If a believer commits suicide, will he go to heaven?” Then we embark on our theological excursion, perhaps never even giving a thought to that bruised and battered soul who is so dejected that he is actually considering the unthinkable. So, as a former hospital chaplain, I’d like to start our theological discussion in the realm of reality.
Will you be saved if you take your own life?
My heart aches as I consider what might drive someone to this point, and words seem unfit to bring the sort of comfort needed. I only know that God is merciful, and that at His right hand stands a Man, who by virtue of His genuine humanity understands our lives completely, and by virtue of His complete divinity has the omnipotent power to help. If you ever face such dark temptations, run to Him, and you will find rest for your soul… and not only rest, but also hope and joy, even through the toughest of times (1 Pet. 1:3-6). There are so many other things I would like to say, and hugs that I would like to give, but alas, a blog is not suited to such things. I can only urge: If you are struggling, please find help in a Biblical local church.
Yet there are a few more things I should say.
First, though you may claim to be a Christian, I must remind you that the Bible affirms with absolute clarity that only the one who perseveres to the end will be saved (Heb. 3:14; Col. 1:21-23). We can profess whatever we want, but the only way to actually know if our faith is a genuine and saving one is to observe if it is producing fruit. So I ask, are you trusting in your own righteousness, thinking that some act, some deed that you have done will guarantee your salvation? Or are you actively trusting in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on your behalf, desiring to glorify God in everything, even with your body? Faith without works is no faith at all, and does not save (Jas. 2:17).
You see the problem is that sin is deceptive, and so it is easy for someone to get so depressed that they think: “God says He forgives all sins, so I’ll just commit one more and then it’ll be over… I’ll even offend Him less.” This logic is satanic, egotistical and erroneous. If you continue evidencing the fruit of the flesh right down to one final act of defiance, the Bible declares that you still abide in darkness (1 Jhn. 3:9-10).
Now you may argue: “A murderer can go to heaven, and suicide is simply self-murder”. Well, it is true that if a murderer repents and gives his life to Christ that he will be saved, but then he is no longer a murderer, but rather one who dedicates his life to Christ and loving the brethren. This is very different than a murderer who professes to be a Christian but continues killing people right up until his death. If someone is characterized by sin, then he is still a murderer, and no murderer will inherit eternal life (1 Jhn. 3:15). Know that if you repeatedly consider suicide and then commit it, you will end your life demonstrating the fruit of the devil, and that is a terrifying thought.
My point is that if you are considering suicide, then we are talking about a serious sin that you need to repent of, a fruit of the flesh that ought to cause you to examine your life to see whether you’re really saved (2 Cor. 13:5), a test that will be hard to pass with that sort of fruit. But take heart, this sort of self-examination is healthy, and whatever the test result may be, the solution is the same: repentance. And if you ask for it humbly in the name of Jesus, God will give it to you freely and without partiality, along with the living hope that He will preserve you to the end to receive an unimaginably wonderful inheritance.
The life that God has given you is a gift, though you might not see it that way, and what should motivate you to live is to glorify Him with all your being, trusting that He will bring His children into His presence at the exact moment that is best for their eternity (Rom. 8:28). Take heart, God will finish the work He has begun in His children (Phil. 1:6), and many great Christians in times past have wrestled with the dark temptations you now wrestle with and God has always been faithful to provide a way to triumph (1 Cor. 10:13). Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; He has made peace through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Is the “believer” you knew who committed suicide in heaven?
Again, words seem inadequate. And though it might seem easiest to begin with some false hope that anyone who ever professed to be a Christian is in heaven, if that professing “believer” never evidenced the fruit of the Spirit, I dare not communicate that someone can live a life characterized by sin and be saved. Loss is hard, but lies will not make it better. Ultimately we must place our hope in God alone and what His Word says.
However, unlike some, I do not believe that the Bible teaches that everyone who commits suicide goes to Hell. Perhaps the best place to begin is with a good biblical definition of the word believer.
God declares in no uncertain terms that a believer is that one who has been predestined, justified and glorified (Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). Salvation does not depend on any human work, but upon God (Rom. 9:11-23). It makes absolutely no biblical sense, then, to talk about a believer going anywhere but heaven. When someone believes in God, all of their sins are forgiven – past, present and future. Thus, I do not need to live in fear that if my final thought before I die is being frustrated with a nurse, that I’m going to go to hell because I killed her in my heart and never got to ask forgiveness. Though I pray that would never occur, if it does happen to a believer, that sin was paid for on the cross before it was ever committed (Col. 2:13-14). In that sense, all Christians die sinning; yet all Christians die forgiven, having received an irrevocable promise of salvation (Eph. 1:13-14; cf. Jhn. 6:39-40; Rom. 11:29).
Therefore, we should never question the eternal destiny of a believer – this is secure. All of God’s children will be preserved by Him until that moment that they meet Him in heaven – even if they were to commit suicide. In fact, I would imagine that many Christians have passed through moments where they have thought about terminating their own lives (which makes them liable to judgment, Mt. 5:22), but their salvation as Christians is never affected because no work of man could ever alter God’s divine declaration that we stand righteous before Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
Of course, many fear saying this – that it is possible for a Christian to commit suicide and go to heaven – because they fear that might be all the encouragement a depressed person would need to commit the most heinous sin imaginable. This no doubt would be the most horrendous of all tragedies, especially if the person only thought they were a Christian, and ended up in Hell, God forbid, based upon a false assurance that we gave them.
However, we dare not let fear guide us. If we were to use the same logic, we would not be able to tell the murderer that he can be forgiven, fearing that others might murder thinking that they could just later ask for forgiveness. Truth never engenders sin in the believer, but rather sanctifies.
The fact of the matter is that the Bible never says that suicide is unpardonable. In fact, as a chaplain I can think of many extreme cases where the opposite seems true. For example, what about a believer who has been faithful to Christ for decades but then sufferes a mind-altering stroke? If months later he commits suicide in a moment of weakness must we say that he is now in Hell? Another example, should a senile person be considered damned because he died without demonstrating faith over his last 6 months?
I give these examples in hope that they demonstrate the vast difference between a believer who falls into a sin that does not characterize his life as a child of God, and the unbeliever whose suicide expresses with absolute perfection what his fallen nature is made of.
In summary, God knows who His children are and always saves them. Our salvation is safe in the omnipotent hands of God. However, the only way that we can know if we are His is by the fruit our lives produce. Thus, the certainty that we feel regarding our salvation ought to fluctuate accordingly. If we walk in the light we ought to know and rest in our salvation (1 Jhn. 5:13, cf. 1 Jhn. 1:7). If we abide in darkness, we ought to fear that we profess to be something that we are not (1 Jhn 2:9).
Suicide is a fleshly and satanic fruit. One might assume that no one could commit it and be saved (In fact, I would guess that a majority of those who have claimed to be Christians and have committed suicide were not what they claimed to be.) However, we ought never to say that every person who commits suicide necessarily goes to Hell, because that would be to commit a greater sin: To attack the merciful nature of God who promises to save all His children. This, then, is the great and final lesson: No act of man can ever supersede the mighty power of God to preserve all of those whom He graciously decides to save.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38-39.