Does suicide send a person to hell? This topic is a two edged sword. At first glance, it feels as if there is no good answer. I don’t mean this to say that there is not an answer; there is. I mean this to say that no matter the answer, there are potentially negative consequences in answering the question at all. Follow me on this: If the answer is “yes,” that committing suicide sends someone to hell, then it is easy to realize that many people would view this as very terrible news. I say this because, if suicide means an automatic eternity in hell, then hope is immediately snuffed out for the thousands or millions of people who have lost loved ones through suicide. On the other hand, if the answer is “no,” that suicide does not automatically send someone to hell, then people who contemplate suicide in the future might not fear it in the same way as they would if an eternity in hell were a certain consequence.
Perhaps the weight of those two options does not hit you fully. They hit me fully. Firstly, they hit me fully because I have known people who have committed suicide, and others who have attempted. Because of this, I understand the desire for hope. Secondly, these options hit me fully because I am a youth pastor, and I have been asked this very question on numerous occasions. Each time I am asked this question, I cannot help but wonder three things:
- Are you asking this question out of simple curiosity?
- Or are you asking because you have lost someone to suicide and you are simply seeking some sort of hope?
- Or are you asking because you have contemplated, or are currently contemplating, suicide?
I cannot know the motives of someone who asks me about suicide, therefore, the manner in which I respond is very important. I must tell the truth, as I will below, but I also must be sensitive to how I answer individuals who might be in category 2 above, and cautious with how I answer individuals who might be in category 3. This topic is serious, so the answer matters. The truth matters, and the manner in which the truth is conveyed matters. Because of this, let us begin by looking at why suicide is wrong, biblically speaking, before we work our way toward the answer to this most serious and disturbing of questions – does suicide send you to hell?
Question 1: Why is Suicide Wrong
Perhaps you don’t care about hearing why suicide is wrong and you want to skip to the next section. I hope that you won’t. Let me just say that you should care about understanding why suicide is wrong; everyone should. In the event that you ever need to talk someone down, you should know what the Bible has to say about every human life. In the event that you are contemplating, or ever will contemplate, suicide, you need to know what the Bible has to say about you.
Or perhaps you even feel you already know the answer to this section’s question. On the surface, you probably do know the answer. You might simply say, “suicide is wrong because all life has value.” You would not be wrong in your answer, but I ask you, why does all life have value? Why does your life matter? The answer to this question begins with an obvious response, all of God’s creation has value. However, let us dig deeper than this simple answer. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, God made mankind a steward over all the things of this earth (Gen. 1:26). While God certainly intended for humans to use His creation to sustain their life as food (Gen. 1:29-30; 9:3), scripture is also clear that God cares about all of His creation, including animals, and that He intended for man to care for the rest of creation (Gen. 1:26; Psalm 145:9; 104:24-25; Prov. 12:10). With that said, as much as God cares about the rest of His creation, mankind is seen as the crown of creation. As the Bible’s creation account records, mankind was made in the image of God. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26a). Because of this, God has placed a higher value on the life of humans than that of other creation on earth (Matt. 6:26; 10:29-30; Luke 12:6-7; Psalm 8:5; Heb. 2:7, 9; Mark 5:1-13).
As the Psalmist says,
13 For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. 15 My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. 17 God, how difficult Your thoughts are for me to comprehend; how vast their sum is! 18 If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand; when I wake up, I am still with You.
Psalm 139:13-18, HSCB
Can you see from this passage the value of every human life? While you were in your mother’s womb, God was shaping you how He wanted you to be. He was planning your life. God was, and is, thinking of YOU! If you feel insignificant, these verses teach that the God of heaven is at work in your life. If you feel blindsided by the unexpected, these verses remind us that God is not surprised by ANYTHING. He knows what tragedies and trials you will confront, He knows what sorrows are in store for your life, and He knows how to help you through it all (Matt. 5:4). If you feel forgotten, the verses that precede this section in Psalms teach that there is no where that God does not see you (Psalm 139:1-10). You matter to God. How much do you matter? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).
Please don’t disregard John 3:16 as a worthless “church” answer. It’s the truth of humanity; the truth of Christianity. God died for YOU! The intrinsic value of a human life is immeasurable, because God thought it was worth enough to die for. You have infinite value because God loves You. He loves you so much that He purposefully created you, has a plan for you, and even died to save you. From the most famous person, to the most obscure, life has value. From the most successful people, to people who feel completely downtrodden, beat up, and forgotten by this world, life has value. From the old to the unborn, life has value. Life has value because God says it does. You have value! God created you for a purpose, and you might not be able to see it at this moment in your life – perhaps you only see failure, sorrow, or sadness – but God sees someone that He loves, someone He designed, someone He died for, someone He has a plan for, and therefore, someone with immeasurable value.
Suicide is the willful harming of a life that God created and sacrificed Himself for. This is sin. If you, or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, then get help quickly. And please remember, God loves you and has a plan for you. Don’t destroy a life that God loves so much, and gave so much for. He has plans for you yet.
But Does Suicide Send a Person to Hell?
Hopefully you spent some time reading the section above, and you know just how much God values you, and all human life. However, we both know that the answer to the question in this section’s header is the reason you are reading this lesson. As a last interruption before I give you the answer to our key question, I need to give you two key points that act as the premise to my argument. Point #1: Vital to my argument below is my belief that Scripture teaches that a person cannot lose their salvation. I will argue the Biblical rationale for what is commonly called “once saved, always saved,” in a future post instead of here. The topic of suicide is sufficiently divisive and lengthy, and the topic of eternal security deserves its own lesson. Hence, we will separate the two. Having given you this first premise, if you find yourself disagreeing with my arguments below, then perhaps you simply disagree with this view on the Bible. If this is the case, it still cannot hurt you to continue reading and see what a person with my views on salvation believes about a person who commits suicide. Point #2: I believe Scripture is our sole doctrinal authority here on Earth. I believe the Bible is God’s Holy and inspired word, inerrant and complete. If you believe your doctrine comes from religious leaders or from any source other than God’s word, then perhaps you too will find yourself disagreeing with my arguments below simply because you reject this premise on which it stands. We can’t debate everything in one lesson, so this too is a topic for another day.
Now, to answer our key question, “Does suicide send a person to hell?” I’m going to ask you a question in return. How do you get to heaven? Do you know how a person gets to heaven? I ask this because you have to know the answer to this question before you can answer if suicide sends a person to hell or not. Could I give you a quick “yes” or “no” answer? Sure; but I want you to know both the answer, and the “why” behind the answer. Hopefully that’s what you want, too. So here we go…
How Does a Person Get to Heaven?
The first thing to realize is that sin has separated all humans from God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Most people can agree that they have sinned. Even a person who does not like to recognize God as an authority in their life probably has to admit that they have done things in opposition of their own personal standards. What I mean is, let us say that I did not believe in God, but I did think it was wrong to yell at someone I cared about, or to take something that wasn’t mine, or to be rude to someone (or whatever example you want). Whatever your standards are, I think there is a 100% likelihood that you’ve broken those standards at some point in your life. This means, by your own standard, you are not perfect.
As many people know, the word “sin” is the Greek word “hamartia,” which means to miss the mark. It’s an archery term that places a “bulls eye” as the goal, and a sin is to miss the bulls eye; i.e. to miss the mark. The fact that every one of us fails to meet our own standard means that every one of us has missed our own personal mark. This means, everyone of us has sinned, even by our own standards. However, God’s standard is ultimately the standard that matters. The verse above teaches that every one of us has sinned and come short of the standard that God expects of us. We have missed God’s mark. We have sinned. Why is this a big deal?
This matters because of another verse in Romans. The first part of Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…” As any worker knows, “wages” are what you earn. This means that the sins we just discussed in the paragraph above, literally earn death. Our sins yield death. You might say that the fruit, or product of sin, is death. Now, what does that mean? There are two types of death described in scripture (three if you count non-Christians as being spiritually dead). The first is physical death (Rom. 5:12), the second is spiritual death, meaning a separation from God for all eternity in the lake of fire (Rev. 2:11; 20:14; 21:8). These are the wages of sin. Until Christ returns to this earth, all mortals will face the first death, physical death, but the second death does not have to be our fate. The second half of Romans 6:23 says, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Instead of eternal separation in hell, God offers eternal life through Jesus. He is able to do this because Jesus died in our place (Rom. 5:8; 3:22-25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 3:16). The wages of sin is death, so Jesus died for us.
Since Jesus died in our place, God offers salvation to all, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22, 25, 28; 10:9; Gal. 3:22). Ephesians 2:8-9 goes so far as to say, “8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This means, that despite what many people think, there is nothing we can do to inherit heaven. We must simply trust Jesus.
So how do I get to heaven? I put my faith in Jesus to save me! 1st John 5:12 says it best, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” In case you aren’t fluent in KJV, that says, “If you have Jesus, you have life. If you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have life,” (paraphrase).
So if you ask me if suicide sends you to hell, I’ll answer that it depends on whether or not a person has Jesus. What is the one thing that can get a person into heaven? Jesus! Therefore, what is the one thing that can keep a person out of heaven? Not having Jesus! Do you know Jesus? Then 1 John 5:12 says you have life! “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” It does not get any clearer than that.
Now, some might counter with the point, “but could a true Christian really commit suicide?” There are passages such as 1 John 3:4-10 that certainly depict a lifestyle of sin as incongruent with Christianity (cf. Matt. 7:16-20; James 2:18; Rom. 2:6-11; Eph. 2:8-10). The argument is that if a person is really born again, then while they might slip up from time to time, they would be incapable of remaining in sin. No matter the validity of such an argument, I believe it is irrelevant to the question of suicide. Suicide is a one time sin. Would anyone really suggest that a Christian could not become depressed, or that they could not undergo such a tragic event that shakes them to the core, making them a danger to themselves? There is no passage of scripture that I am aware of that says Christians are immune to the weaknesses of the flesh; quite the contrary (Rom. 7:15-25; Gal. 5:13-25, etc.). As such, I must answer the question of, “Could a Christian really commit suicide?” with a “Probably…yeah, they probably could; just like they can probably commit every other type of sin while they are alive in this flesh.” If you think I’m wrong, that’s fine, just back it up with scripture. In the face of sinners like King David, is there really a sin that we could say Christians are incapable of committing? I’m always for learning, so if you know how to make that argument, then I’d love to hear it.
I wish everyone would realize what a gift life is, and suicide would become a thing of the past instead of the norm it seems to have become to so many. I wish we could all see past the temporary struggles, disappointments, and failures, and see that God has greater things in store, and that working for His kingdom is so much more important than anything we’ve got going on here (2 Cor. 4:18; Rom. 8:18). To anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide, I pray that you can realize that God loves you. God took the time to design and create you. Don’t damage His creation. He has plans for you!
And so, does suicide send a person to hell? My belief, based on my understanding of scripture, is that the act itself does not send a person to hell. Only Christ can save you from hell, and so only rejecting Christ can send you to an eternity in hell. As such, I hope you understand that the more important question is, “Do you know Jesus?” Have you placed your faith in Him? If not, you need to. As dangerous and terrible as suicide is, rejecting Christ is the most dangerous thing a human can do, because it affects your soul for all eternity (Matt. 10:28). Always remember…
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
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