People commit suicide for many different of reasons. Some preventable, some not, none good and always tragic. Families are devastated by the loss, the whys and the doubts over what could have prevented it. Sometimes the entire family is treated as if they are guilty for the suicide. One painful question that sometimes adds to the grief surrounding suicide regards the eternal state of the person who killed himself. The largest Christian church in the world teaches that suicide is a mortal sin. Those who die with unconfessed mortal sins do not go to heaven. For many years those who committed suicide were denied funeral rites and burial in a church cemetery. What does the Bible teach about suicide? If a saved person commits suicide does he still go to heaven?
Most Christians view suicide as a sin. The Bible contains a few examples of suicide, but does not include any specific prohibition against it. The command against murder is generally recognized to also be a prohibition against self-murder. Suicides are often accompanied by a large number of extenuating circumstances, including deep despair and mental disorders. This does not mean suicide is not a sin, but recognizing the contributing factors can help those left behind understand what brought a person to such a state.
Those who believe suicide will keep a person from heaven base their belief on passages like Galatians 5:19-21 which declare that that no murderer can enter heaven. If a murderer cannot go to heaven then a person who self-murders cannot enter heaven. This conclusion presumes several things. First, it assumes an act of murder prevents a person from entering heaven. However, the Bible tells of several murderers who are declared to be saved, including such heroes of the faith as David and Paul. The Bible does not teach that the act of murder prevents a Christian from entering heaven, so one who commits suicide is not automatically excluded from heaven.
The second assumption builds on the first. Since there are murderers in heaven then it must be unconfessed murder which prevents someone from going to heaven. One who commits suicide does not have a chance to confess his sin and thus does not go to heaven. This assumption has one major problem. Samson is in declared in Hebrews 11 to be a man of great faith. Samson’s death was at his own hands and he did not confess his sin before dying. How can he be a hero of the faith if he is now suffering in hell?
The last, and foundational, assumption that leads some to conclude one who commits suicide can not go to heaven is the presumption that a saved person can make a choice that will cause him to lose his salvation. If this is true then anyone whose last act is a great sin is in danger of losing his salvation. If this is true Jesus then does not forgive Christians all their sin, but only the sin they confess. If this is true then the redeemed are not kept by the power of God but by the power of God and their continued devotion.
Those who are truly saved are forever saved. No action of the redeemed, no matter how terrible or final, can undo the work of Jesus. Jesus saves to the uttermost those who come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25). No suicide nor any other sin is greater than the power of God to forgive or the work of Jesus to save. Salvation has nothing to do with anything the person does. Salvation is accomplished, from beginning to end, by Jesus. The redeemed are not saved because of their goodness, devotion or right choices. The redeemed are saved by the grace of God.
Suicide does not lock the doors of heaven upon a soul. The grace of God is greater than all sin, even if the last act of a person’s life is a great evil. “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” (Romans 6) Suicide tragically ends a life, but all those who trust Jesus for salvation are eternally saved no matter how their life ends.