On Suicide

[ One of my former students sent me a question about whether or not someone who commits suicide can go to heaven.  Here is my response. – BT ]

I think you’re dealing with a few different ideas floating around here that need to be clarified by the Bible:

  1. What does it mean to be saved, born again, redeemed, and adopted into God’s family?
  2. Are there such things as “mortal sins,” that sin someone out of God’s grace?
  3. Is suicide one of those sins?

“Saved”?
People throw this
term around a lot, but the Maker of salvation is God, the means is persevering faith in Jesus, and the meaning is to be adopted into God’s family and made His own to enjoy His glory. I’ve said it in class time and again, but nowhere does the Bible lead us to believe that just because someone “prays the prayer” they are saved. That makes it a work that we do instead of a work that God does in us that is shown through faith. Lots of people in the South will be saying, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we pray the prayer?” to Jesus and He will say, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.” Praying for fire insurance saves no one.

Persevering Faith
God shows that He has saved someone by giving them true faith, persevering faith. So what is persevering faith? The Book of Hebrews talks about holding fast to Jesus and not letting go, not drifting away, not getting hardened by sin’s lies, and holding fast until the end. So one question for a self-killer would be, “Did he or she hold fast until the end?”

The kicker is that it’s hard to tell. Often suicide appears to be a moment or a season of struggling, but it can also the be capstone to a life of unbelief. Either way, the message to us who are still here is, “Hold onto Jesus. Don’t let go.” And that is how we see that He is holding on to us (Philippians 3:12ff).

Mortal Sins?
The Roman Catholic faith has this idea of “mortal sins,” which are sins that, when committed, cannot be forgiven. They list things like murder, homosexuality, etc. In other words, Catholics rank sins. The Bible, while giving different earthly consequences (like death) to different sins, doesn’t rank them before God. All are within the giant reach of our mighty Savior. When the Bible speaks of “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” that won’t be forgiven, it is speaking of the constant resisting of God’s work by someone who doesn’t want to be forgiven. It isn’t limiting God’s power; it is giving a warning to rebels.

Suicide
All of that to say this – suicide isn’t a “mortal sin,” because those don’t exist. In other words, just because someone committed suicide, it doesn’t mean they “can’t” be a child of God, enjoying Him in heaven forever. Suicide is clearly a sin, but it’s impossible for us this side of eternity to know someone’s grasp of Jesus right before they killed themselves. We can trust that God is both just (meaning He does what is right) and merciful (meaning that He saves many of His enemies) with every person that commits suicide.

On the other hand, suicide can either be the end of:

  1. a moment or short time of struggle for a believer OR
  2. a life of faithlessness as an unbeliever.

Those are the only two options.

Talking about It
In the Bible belt, everybody likes to think their dead relative is in heaven because they went to church one day when they were six and came up to the altar. As an evidence of salvation, that one trip to the front is likely worthless. True faith is persevering faith.

So when I got up to preach my great-grandfather’s funeral, for instance, I didn’t comment on his eternal state AT ALL. I said nothing of it. Everyone wants you to, but we don’t have any business doing so unless we are as sure as can be, otherwise we’re lying. And my great-grandfather never showed me any evidences of the grace of God, so I surely wasn’t going to tell anyone that he was in heaven.

It’s hard, but if someone commits suicide, I would encourage caution. I wouldn’t try to say they’re in one place now or another, because we honestly don’t know. People throw around a lot of cliches, but the truth is that only God knows in this life. Let the question encourage you and your friends to run to Jesus, hold on to Jesus, and trust Him to hold on to you when you are at your saddest, most depressed, and most suicidal. I’ve been there many times, and God has been faithful to me.

Hope this helps,
Mr. T

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About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

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