Suicide is a difficult subject. When I hear of a suicide in our community, I know that people are going to have questions. What does the Bible say about suicide? Isn’t suicide a sin? Don’t people who commit suicide go to hell? Is suicide the “unpardonable sin”? The most important thing to do is to think biblical about such difficult topics. We must approach our understanding of suicide through the teaching of the Bible and not based on what “we’ve been taught” or “always heard.” The Bible must be our authority.
Let’s begin by looking for examples found in Scripture. Have you ever thought, “What good is my life?” Rebekah felt that way. “And Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth; like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?'” (Gen. 27:46). She began to question the value of her own life. Jonah, Elijah, and Job all expressed suicidal thoughts and feelings.
King Saul was in battle against the Philistines and his sons were killed. The Philistines pressed hard against Saul. “Then Saul said to his armorbearer, ‘Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.’ But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him” (1 Sam. 31:4-5).
Samson took his own life, while also seeking to take the lives of the Philistines with him. “Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, ‘O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!’ And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life” (Judges 16:28-30).
Perhaps one of the most familiar is that of Judas who betrayed Jesus. “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’ Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3-5).
These examples of thoughts and suicides provide us with the backdrop for developing a biblical worldview of suicide. Historically, Christians have concluded that Samson’s suicide was a justified act of war. Similarly, Saul was at war and sought to avoid shame and abuse at the hands of the Philistines. There is no doubt that Christians have historically objected to suicide. Suicide was and is sinful. Some have asserted that because there is no opportunity to repent, it is a mortal sin. In other words, suicide becomes the “unpardonable sin” because you cannot repent after having committed the sin (more on this in a moment).
Many Christians throughout history have been opposed to the sin of suicide, but reject the notion that it is the unpardonable sin. Scripture makes it clear that the unpardonable sin is “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.” “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men” (Matthew 12:31). To be clear, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit unto salvation. When the Holy Spirit convicts someone of their sin and they refuse to repent and accept Christ as their Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
The idea that suicide cannot be forgiven because the individual did not have an opportunity to seek forgiveness after committing the sinful behavior is a distorted view of the Gospel. Let me be clear, suicide is morally wrong and ought never to be considered by the Christian. Thomas Aquinas asserts that suicide is sinful because (1) it is contrary to natural law and to love, (2) it causes injury to the common good, and (3) it is a sin against God. It is God’s role to determine death and life (cf. Deut. 32:39).
The Gospel is clear. When a person accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are forgiven for every sin they have ever committed in past as well as the future. That’s the amazing gift of grace. I’ve often said that from the perspective of the cross (over 2000 years ago), all of my sin were future tense (even those I committed yesterday). The forgiveness of our sin is settled at the moment of our salvation.
Everyone needs salvation. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus died for our salvation. “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our salvation is a gift, not something we earn through good works. If there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, there is nothing we can do to lose it. It is a gift. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We are saved by grace. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6). Our salvation comes through faith. “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). So, God saves all who call upon Him regardless of their sin. “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10;13).
So, the Bible is clear… “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
Rest assured, if your loved one accepted Christ as their Savior, they are in heaven. If suicide supersedes God’s grace, then God’s grace is insufficient and our salvation is maintained by our own behavior. However, the Holy Spirit has sealed our salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30; 1 Pet. 1:5).
What about Judas Iscariot? Judas was never saved. Therefore, he never lost his salvation. You cannot lose something you never had to begin with. Scripture makes this fact clear, “But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father'” (John 6:64-65). Those who are truly saved cannot lose their salvation. We can conclude from Jesus’ words that Judas was never saved and that Judas’ act of suicide was not the determining factor of his lack of salvation.
Suicide is a problem. It should never be viewed as “the only way out.” Some Christians may be reluctant to share that suicide is not the unpardonable sin in fear that a Christian contemplating suicide may say, “Well if I’m going to heaven anyway…”
I believe truth always prevails.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Need help? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255 (24 hours, 7 days a week).
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."