What Happens to Christians Who Commit Suicide? Do They Go To Heaven or Hell?
by Rich Deem
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)
This 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)
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)
- Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; (1 Corinthians 6:18-19)
- Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
- You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? (James 4:4-5)
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).
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)
Last Modified April 10, 2013
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