A reader asks, “My children's father committed suicide in 2009. I have heard that if a Christian commits suicide he will go to hell. Do you believe this is true?"
The answer to this question requires us to acknowledge certain assumptions present in the question, which include (a) that suicide is a sin; (b) that it has the ability to send a Christian to hell. Therefore, in order to fully answer this question, we need to first establish the biblical definition of suicide, and second, determine whether or not it has the ability to keep a Christian from going to heaven.
The Bible actually details several instances of suicide. Saul, for example, “took his sword and fell on it” because he did not want to die at the hands of non-Israelite men (1 Sam 31:4). His armor bearer subsequently “fell on his sword and died with him” (1 Sam 31:5). Ahithophel was a counselor for King David who ended up turning on him. Upon realizing his imminent defeat, he “strangled himself” (2 Sam 17:23). Zimri was a servant to King Elah, who murdered him and took his place on the throne. Zimri reigned for only seven days before he was overthrown. Upon noticing that the city was taken, “he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house over him with fire, and died” (1 Kings 16:18). The most notorious suicide in Scripture comes by way of Judas, who, after betraying Jesus, hung himself (Matt 27:5).
In each of these cases the individual employs suicide as a response to the results of some kind of ungodly decision. It is also an act of pride (Saul would rather kill himself than let a non-Israelite man kill him). Therefore, in each of its portrayals in Scripture, suicide is the sinful decision to end one’s own life rather than live with the consequences of one’s sinful actions. While several had at least a cursory relationship with God, we cannot know for sure whether or not any of them were truly saved. We can know, however, that suicide, as an act of pride and as an escape from God’s accountability, is not representative of a life that belongs to God.
The Bible is clear that all life belongs to God (Ez 18:4). This is especially true for the believer, who was “bought with a price” and should “glorify God in [his] body” (1 Cor 6:20). Paul says, “… do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
This means that suicide, taking a life that doesn’t belong to you, is a sin. A believer's life is doubly God’s. As a person created in God’s image and as a person who has given his life over to Jesus, suicide executes life at both the physical and spiritual level. Jesus came so that we can “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Suicide better represents Satan’s plan for life, which is to “steal, kill, and destroy” it (John 10:10).
It’s unequivocally true that suicide is a sin, but the scriptures are clear that faith in Jesus frees a person from the power of sin, which is eternal death and separation from God (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:55). This is to say that even the egregiousness of suicide cannot keep a Christian from eternal life in Jesus. To suggest otherwise would intimate that Jesus’ resurrection is powerful enough to overcome the power of sin in every area except suicide, which simply isn’t biblical. Whether a Christian dies by suicide or by a car accident, he is immediately translated into the intermediate heaven (2 Cor 5:8).
One might suggest that a “true” Christian would never commit suicide, but we must remember that suicide is merely one type of sin, and, albeit heinous, Christians are still capable of falling short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23).
While it’s true that a Christian who commits suicide will still go to heaven, it’s also true that it is the most tragic way to conclude a Christian life. The life of the Christian ought to be one that testifies of the value and worth of life. Suicide communicates the opposite of this. Jesus gave his life so others could live. Suicide takes a life, and leaves the lives of loved ones devastated in the process, something Jesus would never do.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.