heaven and suicide

©2018 michael martin | mike@truthquest.org

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first things first...

Before you read this article, please make a promise. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact your local authorities for help. Your life is valuable, and God put you here, in this time, in this place, and in these circumstances for a reason, perhaps that only God knows.

Secondly, be aware that there is no shame in struggling with suicide. While there are always folks who may look down on a person for struggling with suicide or any other sin issue, we shouldn't let that stop us from sharing our struggles and seeking help.

God knows us. He knows our struggles, and He desires for us to come to Him for help.

You came to this article because, at minimum, you're curious about what the Bible says about suicide, and whether a person who commits suicide can go to heaven. We will answer those questions from Scripture, as well as some broader issues concerning suicide. But as you read, my prayer is that you will also see the importance of living the life God has given you. So, with that said, let's explore this issue together.

yes, suicide is a sin

To be sure, the Bible clearly shows that suicide is a sin. Sadly, as with all sins, suicide harms the family and friends of the one who commits it. The Bible is clear that murder–the unlawful taking of a human life–is a sin, as is clearly spelled out in the Ten Commandments:

exodus 20:13

You shall not murder.

To make things even clearer, consider this passage:

1 corinthians 3:17

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

Without a doubt, it is wrong to kill oneself. Our bodies are temples created by and for God, and to end one’s own life is unquestionably sinful. Let's take a few moments to examine why suicide is so harmful.

suicide is selfish

Does that sound harsh? It's not meant as a statement of judgement, but rather as a simple acknowledgement of truth.

Suicide is selfish because it is, at its core, a percieved shortcut escape from one's own suffering. How is this selfish? Because suicide does not take into account the needs or best interests of the people around us. But, perhaps you’re still wondering how, in certain cases, suicide could be selfish. That's fair.

For example, someone may ask, “what if my death would be a benefit to the people around me?”

“What if I’m a burden to others?”

“What if I only bring trouble upon my loved ones?”

“What if it would be better for everyone else if I were dead?”

But this is highly flawed reasoning, and believe it or not, very selfish and self-focused. How can that be?

For one, it supposes that we have far more power and influence than we really have. Reasoning that our death could be the answer to everyone’s problems is just as foolish as believing that our presence is the answer to everyone is problems. Both views are very selfish and demonstrate “thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.”

Consider the words of Scripture in Romans 12:1-8:

Romans 12:1-8

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Let's examine this passage for a moment. To begin with, God want us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. As verses 4-8 tell us, we should serve the people around us with whatever gifts, skills and talents God has given us. Even if you don't feel like God has given you any specific gifts, it is clear that God wants us to serve others, thinking of ourselves as vital organs in a larger body.

With that in mind, let's look more closely at verse 3, which tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. While we are all special creations of God, each with gifts and purposes given to us by our Creator, we should not make the mistake of elevating our importance above or below that of any other human. If we beleive that the welfare of the people around us hinges only on our presence or absence, then we're too focused on ourselves, failing to account for God's provision and His plan.

In other words, taking one’s own life is selfish in that it fails to take God’s desire into consideration. The fact that you are currently living on this earth is proof that God wants you to be here. When a person commits suicide, s/he places his/her own desires above God’s. God’s desire for you is to be a living sacrifice; living on this earth to serve others. We can't do that if we commit suicide.

suicide is irreversible

Another unique problem with suicide is the fact that suicide cannot be reversed, confessed, or repented of in this life. That leaves some significant "unfinished business" to deal with when a suicide victim meets God for face-to-face judgement. For the unbeliever, suicide does not end suffering at all, but rather fast-tracks him/her for far greater, eternal, irrevocable suffering in hell. Again, this is not a statement of judgement, but rather a somber warning.

revelation 20:12-15

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Clearly, apart from Jesus, the end of our lives holds judgement and eternal suffering.

But what about the believer? What if a person who has truly, genuinely believed and trusted in Jesus Christ commits suicide?

can people who commit suicide go to heaven?

Now, to the core question of this article. Can a believer in Jesus Christ go to heaven if they commit suicide?

If they are truly followers of Christ, then the short answer is, yes.

But, there are some important caveats here, so read on...

Despite the fact that suicide is a terrible sin, the beauty of Jesus’ sacrifice is that He paid for all sin, and this even includes the sin of suicide. The beauty of Christ’s sacrifice and grace is that nothing can separate us from the love of God, as this passage beautifully points out:

romans 8:31-38

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Or consider also:

1 john 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

What a wonderful promise! The sacrifice of Jesus is so perfect that He cleanses us from all unrighteousness! If we confess our sins, Jesus wipes them away!

so, what happens when a believer commits suicide?

In 1 john 1:9 above, the Scripture assures us of forgiveness if we confess our sins. If a believer in Christ takes his or her own life, they can't do that. They place themselves in a position of having an unresolved, unrepented sin on their record when they meet God for face-to-face judgment.

With all other sins, a believer can confess, repent, and make things right before facing heavenly judgment. Personally, I would much prefer to confess and repent of my sins to God (and to those I’ve hurt here on earth) before coming face to face with God for judgment. This isn’t possible with suicide, and so an account will have to be given when we face God:

romans 14:12

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

2 corinthians 5:9

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

If we ask God to forgive us for a sin before we commit that sin, we’re demonstrating that we truly aren’t repentant at all, because we still have every intention of carrying out the sin. Asking God to forgive us before committing suicide isn’t repentance, it’s lip service.

If we are to please God, then in addition to not committing sins, we should demonstrate true repentance for the sins we have committed by turning away from them and not continuing in our sin. A Christian who commits suicide does great harm to themselves, even though they still go to heaven, because their last act on earth was a deliberately rebellious one.

escaping through the flames?

When a believer in Jesus sins, it is forgiven, but we must be reconciled, which means that we must confess the sin and repent (turn away from it). If we do this while we are on this earth, then God sees the sin as being gone. But if we don't resolve our sins here on earth (by confessing and repenting) then we will have to do that when we personally face God. Suicide is unique in that the one who takes their own life cannot resolve the sin issue before their earthly life ends. As a result, a Christian who has committed suicide must resolve the sin of suicide (of rejecting and destroying the life that God has given them) when they face God. This is certainly not a desirable position to be in! Would they still enter heaven? Yes, but perhaps only as one who has escaped through the flames! To understand what I’m referring to here, please see this passage from the Bible:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

The above passage explains that Jesus is our Foundation, but that we have a responsibility to “build” on what God has given us with the best materials. That is, if we strive to build a life that pleases God, it is like constructing a building of costly and durable materials. If, on the other hand, we don’t value what God has given us, we might build with cheap, flimsy, “flammable” materials by living a life that shows little regard for God. Everyone who “builds” on the foundation of Jesus will enter heaven, but the life we “built” will be judged, as a building is tested by fire.

Using this analogy, let’s imagine that God’s judgement of us is like a consuming fire (which is how the Bible describes Him in Dueteronomy 4:24)

As a Christian builds their life on the foundation of Jesus, living in obedience to God is like building with quality, durable materials. If a Christian sins, it’s like adding a straw brick to the building. That brick won't survive the flames. But if that Christian repents of their sin, it’s like Jesus removing the straw brick and replacing it with something durable before the judging “fire” comes.

If the Christian does not repent before the judging fire, then when the day comes when we give an account to God for our lives (the fire,) the straw brick will catch fire and damage the “building”. This is only an analogy, but the point is that it is important that what we’ve built on the foundation of Jesus should survive rather than suffering loss from faulty building.

In other words, a believer who commits suicide would still be forgiven and enter heaven (because of Jesus), but they would still face significant consequences that would affect them in ways that we don't fully know. It is harmful and dangerous to take God's grace and forgiveness for granted! Therefore it is far better, in every case, not to take one's own life.

how confident are you?

Finally, it is important to consider the question of how confident we are in our relationship with God. If we are truly confident in our standing with God, would we really be considering suicide? God's grace is amazing, but not to be treated lightly.

Jude 4

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Think about it. If we are confident enough in our salvation and our Savior that we believe we will be in heaven after committing suicide, should we not be even more confident that God's grace is enough to bring us through our sufferings in this life?

If we are so doubtful that God is enough to bring us through our present sufferings that we consider suicide, then we are, in a form, denying our Lord and using His grace as a license to sin through suicide.

And if we have such doubts about our relationship with God, suicide becomes an incredibly risky and dangerous proposition, because eternal hell awaits those who depart this earth without a saving relationship with Christ Jesus.

In other words, if we don't trust God enough to believe that He is working for our good through our suffering, then how can we be confident enough in His grace to take our own lives?

Conversely, if we believe that God's grace will admit us into heaven through our sinful act of suicide, then how much more will His grace be enough to bring us through our sufferings as we obey Him?

Clearly, demonstrating our trust in God through our obedience to Him is far better than testing His grace by disobeying Him. Suicide, then, whether one is a believer or not, is never a good choice.

so, what's the solution?

We've spent a lot of time explaining why suicide is not a good solution to anything. While there are times when it may be necessary to sacrifice one's own life for the benefit of others, like losing our life by pushing someone out of the path of an oncoming train, it is never noble to be the instrument of one's own death for the purpose of escaping suffering.

So where does that leave us?

What are we to do if we are suffering, or in anguish, and we don't see an end or an escape? The answers may be infuriating, but they are also true. Stay with me.

it all hinges on Jesus...

The core solution for any struggles we face in this life all begin with One Person. Jesus doesn't magically make all of our problems disappear before our eyes, but He does change us. He shows us, by His Word and through His Spirit, how to live and how to deal with all of life's struggles.

If you're already a believer in Jesus Christ, then the answer is to improve your walk and your relationship with Him. If you don't know Him, or aren't confident that you belong to Jesus, then your first step is to give yourself to Him.

find out how →

Whatever your case, whether you're a longtime follower of Jesus or brand-new to His Kingdom, the following steps will help you in your struggles and in developing a stronger relationship with God.

endure hardship as discipline

I know you don't want to hear that. I don't either. But the fact is, God uses hardship in our lives to draw us closer to Him, for our own benefit and for others.

hebrews 12:7-11

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline —then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Here, we can apply the "spoiled child" analogy. A child who always gets everything he or she wants will grow up to become an awful, entitled human being. A loving parent disciplines his child, sometimes in unpleasant ways, because it is necessary for guiding the child's growth and development, and for helping that child to relate best to his/her parents and to other people.

None of us enjoy pain or suffering. Some of our pain may be the result of our own previous choices, and some may have been brought upon us by our Heavenly Father as an act of loving discipline, perhaps for reasons we don't see or understand.

Here's the encouragement. While discipline is sometimes punishment, it is oftentimes just discipline to help us to grow, like a soldier in Basic Training, to prepare us for what lies ahead and to bring us into better relationships. The point is, if God is disciplining you, then you can know that He's thinking about you and working in your life. In other words, you can be sure that He loves you!

proverbs 13:24

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

serve others

Remember when I said that self-focus was one of the problems with suicide? Well, serving others takes our focus off of ourselves, and that helps us with our thoughts of suicide.

proverbs 11:25

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

galatians 5:13-14

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

proverbs 19:17

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.

philippians 2:3-8

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

It is important to remember that, although all of this is easy to say, that Jesus Himself actually followed all of these principles and set the example for us. God isn't asking us to do anything He hasn't already done Himself. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He was in aguish, knowing the great suffering He was about to endure. But even then, Jesus' focus wasn't upon Himself. Instead, He spent the time praying for us. And finally, Jesus uttered this beautiful prayer:

luke 22:42

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

While Jesus didn't want to suffer and asked His Father if there was a way to remove the suffering, Jesus ultimately yielded His own will and comfort to God, understanding that God's plan was for the benefit of all the world. It's not easy, but just like Jesus, we must yield our own will to God's will.

rejoice!

Yeah, I know... Makes you want to punch me in the face, doesn't it?

I know this sounds like an infuriatingly simplistic cop-out. But the fact is, this actually works. I'm not saying it's easy, and it's not a "one-off" solution, but if you make it your habit, just as surely as you eat or sleep, it will change your attitude, if not your circumstances.

philippians 4:4-8

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

1 thessalonians 5:16-17

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Here again, rejoicing and giving thanks has a tendency to shift our focus from ourselves to God. Placing our focus on God, and upon what's good in our lives, will help to change how we think and feel about our circumstances. If you still think this is overly simplistic, I encourage you to read the full article about rejoicing.

read the full article about rejoicing...

The Bible has a great deal to say about this. So much, in fact, that it warrants a full article, which I hope and pray will be an encouragement to you. Read it here:

read "the choice to rejoice" →

get into fellowship

God Himself observed that it is not good for man to be alone...

genesis 2:18

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Indeed, God designed humans to need fellowship. Not only do we need other people, but we are stronger when we are in fellowship, especially with other people who will draw us closer to God.

ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:

10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

proverbs 18:1 (hcsb)

One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment.

alone = vulnerable

1 peter 5:6-9

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

The above passage describes Satan as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. But, whom is the lion most likely to attack? Will he go after the group, or will he find one who is off by himself?

One of Satan's favorite tactics is to convince us that we are alone. He lies to us, telling us that other people will judge us if we share our struggles, and that we should keep them to ourselves. Indeed, some people will judge us. But the fact is, when we are in fellowship with one another, enjoying genuine relationships, sharing our struggles, holding each other accountable, and spurring one another on toward love and good deeds, we are far stronger.

proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

not "one-off" solutions...

None of the above solutions are "one-and-done" solutions, like taking a pill and having all your problems disappear. But, let's use pills as an example.

Pills don't generally work unless they're taken regularly, often several times a day for many days. A single pill rarely improves one's condition. Going further, pills often don't actually change what's wrong in our bodies, but rather change what we feel about it.

Here's the secret. God's interest is not in fixing our circumstances, but in fixing us. To that end, God brings upon us circumstances with the goal of using those circumstances to draw us closer to Him. In other words, our core problems are not our uncomfortable cuircumstances, but our own hearts being in need of a closer relationship with God.

If improved relationships with God and with other people is the solution to our pain and anguish, then we need to work, on an ongoing basis, to improve those relationships.

This is accomplished by enduring our hardships, by serving others, and by rejoicing on a continuous, ongoing basis. As we live this way, while our circumstances may not necessarily improve, our relationships with others, and especially with God will improve, which will improve what we think and feel about our circumstances.

In other words, following God's Word really, actually works. It's not easy, but it really is just that simple.

conclusion

God’s grace is so amazing that nothing can separate us from Him. That’s great news! But we should never take God’s grace for granted. We will face judgment for our actions here on earth. It is far better to turn away from our sins and to “get our accounts settled” here on earth than to find ourselves standing before God as He demands an accounting for our unrepented sin. So, while Christians who commit suicide will go to heaven, it will not be the warm welcome they could have otherwise enjoyed. Still, for Christians who have loved ones who are also Christians and yet have committed suicide, we can take comfort in knowing that we will see them again, and that our heavenly lives will be glorious!