This post is one that definitely stirs my emotions. I have thought about this post for a few weeks and finally have the courage to post it. Almost six years ago, I had someone ask me, “If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to hell?” I responded, and I want to share that with you. I also want to share what the last six years has brought to my thoughts on this subject.
Throughout church history, people have asked: “If a person commits suicide, does that automatically send them to hell?” I want to briefly tackle this issue because it was brought up to me not too long ago. I honestly have not thought too much about it until this conversation. Once again, I am no scholar and do not think that I will solve the issue. However, I would like to work through this and show you how I reached my answer to this question.
If I understand this correctly, the idea of suicide leading to hell came from Judas Iscariot’s suicide. We have that recorded in two places in Scripture:
“Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.”
“In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’ (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out…”
Before we move any further, someone may look at those two passages and say they do not jive. One says he hung himself and the other says that he fell headlong. There are two ways to show that both passages are accurate. The most popular interpretation is that Judas hung himself and the rope or branch broke which threw him down onto possible rocky terrain and caused him to burst open. Another possibility is a different translation of “falling headlong” in Acts 1. It could also be translated “swelling up.” If that was the case, then he could have hung himself in a somewhat remote location where no one would see him for a period of time. This would allow the decaying process the time needed for his insides to swell and explode out of his stomach. I know some of you are probably saying, “Eww, gross.” Sorry, but that is a possibility.
In any case, neither of these passages says that Judas went to hell. Where does that come from? It comes from John 17:12. Jesus is praying, and here He says, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Although Judas is not mentioned by name here, he is definitely implied. Two things need to be addressed here. First, Judas did not obtain salvation only to lose it later. He never had it. Jesus knew that he was a false disciple and He knew that he would later betray him. Therefore, he was not “found” and lost later. He was lost from the get-go. Second, his “lostness” does entail an eternity in hell. The Word of God is clear: Salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. If a person’s faith is not in Christ, the Bible is clear: they will spend eternity separated from God in hell. If we look back in Matthew 27 at Judas’ discussion with the chief priests and elders, is there any sense of true repentance in his sorrow? I do not know. Having Jesus say that he was lost is a good indicator, and I believe because of that statement of Jesus, Judas was not truly repentant and therefore is in hell.
So far you can see that I believe that Judas committed suicide and also that he is in hell. (In saying that, I do realize that I am not God. Only God knew Judas’ heart. However, the statement of Jesus leads me to believe that Judas died a lost man.) Are the two connected? Is Judas in hell because he committed suicide? The answer that I have arrived at is: no. If Judas is in hell, it is because he died a lost man. He is not in hell because he committed suicide. I am sure some of you agree with this, but some do not. Let me explain how I came to this conclusion.
The Bible teaches that when Jesus saves you, you are immediately, completely, and permanently forgiven of all sin past, present, and future. I realize that is an amazing yet difficult statement. Why? Some will take that statement to mean that they can sin all they want after coming to Christ because they are forgiven. That is simply not the case. Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” The above statement does not give us the license to sin. Also, if we are forgiven to that extent, why do we need to continue confessing our sins to God as 1 John 1:9 says? When we study 1 John, we need to realize that John is talking about fellowship. Our position in Christ is settled the moment we are saved. However, we will still sin. In doing so, our fellowship with God will be broken. Therefore, we need to confess our sins to God to maintain proper fellowship with God.
With a correct view of forgiveness in mind, let’s return to our topic of suicide. If we are completely, freely, and permanently forgiven, then suicide cannot be unforgivable. Let me try to make this point with two examples. First, if you murder someone else as a Christian, are you not forgiven for that sin? The answer is yes. Obviously, you should not have done it and it was a sin against God, but still you are forgiven. Suicide is murder, is it not? How then can you not be forgiven for it? Some might say, I agree, but you are around after murdering someone else to ask for forgiveness. Alright, how about this next example: I get in a fight with my wife and sin in what I say or do towards her. In my anger, I leave, drive away, and as I am driving, I am going so fast that I crash into a tree and die. I did not have a chance to ask forgiveness for that sin. Will that be held against me? Of course not! Why then is suicide any different? In my opinion it is not.
On a different note, suicide is not a joke, even among Christians. With all the problems in our world today, it is becoming all too common to here of people, even children, committing suicide. With that and everything that has been said in this discussion in mind, I do not see suicide as a viable option for the believer. I do not think that a believer who commits suicide will go to hell, but I do not think that a believer should commit suicide. Why? 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Therefore, when things get so bad and one is tempted to end it all by committing suicide, they need to think on this verse. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul had what he called a thorn in the flesh and it was the cause of much strife in his life. However, God saw fit to leave it with him to prove this verse. In the same way, if a believer gets to this point, they need to realize that God’s grace is sufficient and His power is there providing a way of escape from that temptation.
Since this was written, suicide has become all too real in my life. On February 14, 2013, I received a call that a friend of mine had committed suicide. He was one of my closest friends from the time I was a kid until my early twenties. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with. But my question was: “How could things ever get to a point where someone would want to take their own life?”
Since that time, I have gone through my own struggles. I have been in the depths of depression. I have experienced paralyzing anxiety. But God has gotten me through it. I believe that with all of my heart.
On my left wrist, I have a tattoo of a semicolon. Most people either don’t notice it or don’t ask about it. If you’re reading this, you may not understand why someone would get that tattoo. Here’s the meaning behind it: When you finish a thought but there’s more to come that is closely connected, you put a semicolon. That is what it signifies in my life and the life of countless others in Project Semicolon.
In the darkest days of my life to this point, I finally experienced the answer to “How could things ever get to a point where someone would want to take their own life?” I’ve been there. A few times. But with God, my family, and my friends supporting me, my story is not over.
I still believe that suicide does not send a believer to hell. And I still believe that suicide should not have to be an option for believers. But I also believe that sometimes we can get to that place.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re going through a hard time. Maybe you’re even thinking the world would be better off without you and you want to commit suicide. Seek help! Suicide is not the answer, and I am living proof of that!
If you need someone to talk to and want to talk, let me know. If you have any other insights, please let me know in the comments.