What Happens to Christians Who Commit Suicide? Do They Go To Heaven or Hell?
by Rich Deem

Introduction

Do Christians who kill themselves go to heaven or hell? This is a difficult question to answer, not because the answer is difficult, but because Christians who are looking for the answer are probably contemplating suicide. If this is you, I want to warn you that it is not God's will that you commit suicide.

Suicides in the Bible

There are a few examples of successful suicides in the Bible. Coming to mind is Samson, who killed himself and his Philistine captors who were mocking him.1 In this instance, Samson's prayer to God for strength in his last act seemed to be answered by God. However, the Philistines who he also killed were evil people. Another example is King Saul and his armor-bearer, who killed themselves as they were being overrun by the Philistines.2 A third example was Ahithophel, who hanged himself when it was clear that his advice to Absalom was not heeded, and that he would likely be killed by David as a traitor.3 Another example is Zimri, who usurped the throne in Israel for seven days, before Israel's army marched against him and he intentionally set the citadel on fire and died in the flames.4 Probably the most famous example was Judas, who after he had betrayed Jesus tried to give back the 30 pieces of silver, then went out and hanged himself.5

Other people contemplated suicide, such as the unbelievers in Revelation, who were suffering the wrath of God.6 Another was the Philippian jailor, who considered killing himself when he saw all the doors of the prison open.7 However, Paul, one of the prisoners, encouraged him not to kill himself. Instead of committing suicide, the jailor became a Christian and was baptized that night.8 Another famous example occurred when the Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself off the temple wall, so that God would send an angel to save Him.9 Jesus refused. Then there was Job's wife, who after Job had suffered numerous catastrophes at the hand of Satan was encouraged to "curse God and die."10 Job refused the evil suggestion of his wife.

What is clear from all these examples is that suicide in the Bible was usually the result of evil men realizing what was in store for them as a result of their evil. In other instances, people were encouraged not to kill themselves or chose not to do so on their own, as being the better choice. So, it is clear that suicide is never encouraged in the Bible.

Bible and suicide

Although the issue of suicide is not directly addressed in the Bible, it does fall under the commandments of God - specifically, "you shall not murder."11 The Bible in Basic English translates the phrase, "Do not put anyone to death without cause." The Hebrew word used here is ratsach,12 which nearly always refers to intentional killing without cause (unless indicated otherwise by context). Since suicide is the intentional, premeditated murder of an individual, it would also be banned by the commandment. According to the Bible, murder (or suicide) is prohibited because humans are made in the image of God:

"Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. (Genesis 9:6)

Therefore, according to the Bible, the only One who has the right to decide when we die is the Creator Himself. The Bible also says God has ordained the days of our lives.13 So, suicide specifically violates the will of God in a person's life.

Suicide and heaven/hell

Contrary to what many people believe, going to heaven is not determined by weighing one's good deed vs. bad deeds. Salvation in the Bible is based upon belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior:

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (Romans 10:9)

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and BackThis kind of belief is not just an academic endeavor, since the demons "believe," but are condemned.14 The difference is that the demons believe and rebel against God whereas a true believer believes and follows Jesus as Lord.15 Salvation, and access to heaven is based upon the grace of God16 as a free gift to those who believe.17 So, how do good and evil deeds fit into salvation and heaven vs. hell? Those who do not believe are condemned based upon the evil deeds they had committed during their lives.18 In fact, the righteous deeds performed by those individuals during their lives will not even be remembered by God.19 For the believer, the opposite situation exists. All his bad deeds are forgiven20 and forgotten by God21 and he is judged on the basis of his good deeds.22 So, a Christian who commits suicide is limiting his reward in heaven by cutting his life short. Suicide cuts short the good works that God has prepared for us to accomplish:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

Objections

Some Christians have objected to this paper and cite 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 as evidence that those who commit suicide will be excluded from heaven:

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

There are a lot of warnings about Christians being the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit lives in us, we are not to join God's temple with idolatry or sexual immorality (e.g., a prostitute)

The Greek word phtheirō translated "destroy" in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 has alternative meanings, including "to corrupt" or "to defile."23 Given the verses cited above and the allusion to holiness, this meaning makes more sense than "destroy." Even so, the destruction of the body by God does not necessarily mean that a person will lose their salvation. God could remove that person from earth to prevent them from falling further into corruption. Here is what Paul said of a sinning believer:

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)

So, even though a Christian commits a sin, that act cannot result in God reneging on His promise of salvation based upon faith. In other words, a true believer can never lose his salvation (see Once Saved Always Saved? Eternal Security of the Believer).

Conclusion Top of page

In conclusion, a true Christian who commits suicide will enter heaven. Being a true Christian means that one believes in Jesus Christ as Lord. Going up for an alter-call at some point in one's life without true belief does not make one a true Christian. However, a Christian should not want to thwart God's purposes by shortening his natural life through suicide. The Christian is to be propelled by love for one another,24 which cannot be expressed by killing one's self. At the natural end of one's life, we will be looking forward to the words of the Master:

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:23)



References Top of page

  1. Then Samson called to the LORD and said, "O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes." Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. (Judges 16:28-30)
  2. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, "Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me." But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. (1 Samuel 31:4-5)
  3. Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father. (2 Samuel 17:23)
  4. When Zimri saw 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, because of his sins which he sinned, doing evil in the sight of the LORD, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, making Israel sin. (1 Kings 16:18-19)
  5. Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!" And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
  6. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them. (Revelation 9:6)
  7. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" (Acts 16:27-28)
  8. And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. (Acts 16:29-33)
  9. Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'" (Matthew 4:5-7)
  10. Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10)
  11. "You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
    'You shall not murder. (Deuteronomy 5:17)
  12. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    râtsach ratsach (Strong's H7523) (Strong's H7523)
    1. to murder, slay, kill
      1. (Qal) to murder, slay
        1. premeditated
        2. accidental
        3. as avenger
        4. slayer (intentional) (participle)
      2. (Niphal) to be slain
      3. (Piel)
        1. to murder, assassinate
        2. murderer, assassin (participle) (substantive)
      4. (Pual) to be killed
    Part of Speech: verb
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 220
  13. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalms 139:16)
    by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." (Deuteronomy 30:20)
    So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
  14. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19)
  15. A believer must follow Jesus:
    • And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)
    • But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead." (Matthew 8:22)
    • As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9)
    • Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24)
    • Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21)
    • And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17)
    • As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)
    • And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)
    • Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mark 10:21)
    • After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." (Luke 5:27)
    • And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)
    • And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." (Luke 9:59)
    • When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Luke 18:22)
    • The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." (John 1:43)
    • "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; (John 10:27)
    • "If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26)
    • Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered, "Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later." (John 13:36)
    • Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!" (John 21:19)
    • Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" (John 21:22)
  16. The grace of God:
    • "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11)
    • "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
    • being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Romans 3:24)
    • But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (Romans 5:15)
    • For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
    • And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (Romans 5:20)
    • that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)
    • But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Romans 11:6)
    • I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, (1 Corinthians 1:4)
    • But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
    • And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
    • "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." (Galatians 2:21)
    • You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
    • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (Ephesians 1:7)
    • even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Ephesians 2:5)
    • For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
    • But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:7)
    • and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:14)
    • Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, (2 Timothy 1:8-9)
    • He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:5-6)
    • As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, (1 Peter 1:10)
    • that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7)
    • But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." (James 4:6)
    • Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
    • You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. (1 Peter 5:5)
    • And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
    • Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! (1 Peter 5:12)
    • Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; (2 Peter 1:2)
    • but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
  17. even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Romans 3:22-24)
  18. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
    The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
    "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)
  19. "But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die. (Ezekiel 18:24)
  20. "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:43)
    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
    He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:5-7)
    I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake. (1 John 2:12)
  21. "But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. "All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. (Ezekiel 18:21-22)
  22. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:8-9)
    Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (Colossians 3:23-24)
    And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
    "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12)
  23. Thayer's Greek Definitions:
    phtheirō φθείρω (Strong's G5351)
    1. to corrupt, to destroy
      1. in the opinion of the Jews, the temple was corrupted or “destroyed” when anyone defiled or in the slightest degree damaged anything in it, or if its guardians neglected their duties
      2. to lead away a Christian church from that state of knowledge and holiness in which it ought to abide
      3. to be destroyed, to perish
      4.  in an ethical sense, to corrupt, deprave
    Part of Speech: verb
    A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: probably strengthened from phthio (to pine or waste)
    Citing in TDNT: 9:93, 1259
  24. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

Reflections
We are what we think.

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Last Modified April 10, 2013

 

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