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is suicide unforgivable sin

Recently I have received more questions than I wish to count about the eternal destiny of those who commit suicide.  Therefore, this question has been moved to the top of the Got Questions? queue and we’ll look at what the Bible says about suicide.  

In addition to asking if suicide is an unforgivable sin, a reader wrote:

“I can’t find anything in the Bible about suicide.  I found Judas’ hanging himself..but nothing else. Am I overlooking it? I have heard two preachers preach very different messages about suicide.”  And another reader asked, “When a person commits suicide, do they go straight to hell like most churches teach?”

Let me begin by saying, I don’t believe that most churches teach a person goes straight to hell if they commit suicide (although there are some churches that do teach or imply that).  In fact, suicide is something that is not often addressed in most churches.  With the increasing rate of suicide, it really is something that needs to be addressed.  In March of 2015, CBS News reported these findings:

 “ The suicide rate for girls and young women in the U.S. continues to rise at a pace far faster than for young males….The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 5,178 suicide deaths among young people aged 10 to 24 in the U.S. in 2012. Suicide was the second leading cause of deaths in that age group, after accidents.The suicide rate increased for young people of both genders since 2007. And it remains three times higher for young males than young females.But the female increase has been steadier.

“Suicide rates for younger people have varied over the years, with a recent upward trend starting around 2007. There were 4,320 suicide deaths in 2007; the toll was 5,264 in 2013. Suicide rates for older adults tend to be higher, in the range of 15 or 20 per 100,000. Since 2007, suicide rates have increased for older age groups, too.” [1]

Is Suicide an Unforgivable Sin? What does the Bible say?

There are several accounts in the Bible of people who took their own lives.  Probably the two best-known examples are Saul, who took his life to avoid the dishonor of being captured, abused and killed (1 Samuel 31:1-4), and Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then hung himself (Matthew 27:5).  Other people in the Old Testament who committed suicide are:

Abimelech (Judges 9:54) – to avoid the dishonor of being killed by a woman

Samson (Judges 16:28-31) – to defeat the Philistines who had imprisoned him

Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:5) – to follow his king, Saul, into death

Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23) – in defeat when he realized his counsel was not followed

Zimri (1 Kings 16:18) – in defeat to avoid capture

 Although the act of suicide is clearly condemned in the Bible, these men in the Old Testament were not personally condemned for what they did.

Never An Option

It should be understood that suicide is never to be a viable option of escape in times of difficulty and despair.  There is help…..family, friends, churches, online resources (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) and, the best of all help, Jesus.

Scripture teaches us that Jesus’ grace is sufficient in all things (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) and that He is faithful to provide an escape from anything that threatens to overcome us (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Sadly, many Christians experience dark seasons of the soul and fail to turn to Jesus to find the comfort they need.  And tragically, some Christians have taken their own lives.  The depths of despair can drive anyone to despair.  That is why it is so important to spend time in prayer and in reading the Bible, so that, when a storm threatens to overtake us, we are prepared to find comfort and strength in Jesus and in His Word.   The Bible gives us the answers we need to deal with all life’s problems, and in prayer, our faith and our relationship with Jesus grows stronger.  Through regular Bible reading, prayer and Christian fellowship we can find peace and comfort in the most difficult of circumstances and the darkest of days.

With all that said, we must acknowledge that there have been believers, with very strong foundations, who have lost their “footings” and have fallen and have taken their own lives.

So is suicide a sin? 

Yes, suicide is a sin.  Suicide is the taking of human life.  However, in man’s vertical relationship with God, suicide is no different than any other sin.  And this, just like any sin, has been paid for by Jesus.

If a believer, one who has been redeemed and regenerated by Jesus, has committed suicide,  their sin does not condemn them.   It must be remembered that every one of the believer’s sins were paid for by Jesus on the cross. When Jesus saved the person, he received God’s forgiveness for every sin (past, present, and future), including the final sin of suicide.   Jesus has promised that He has prepared a place for those who are His and that He will come to receive them unto Himself (John 14:1-4).  Jesus has promised that no one, including the believer himself, can take one of His own out of His hand (John 10:28).  No one who belongs to Jesus will ever perish.

For someone who does not belong to Jesus, someone who has not repented and trusted in Jesus’ finished work on the cross to pay for their sins, they face the consequences of dying in unforgiven sin. God will judge them accordingly.  While God can forgive all sins, He cannot overlook any sin.  All sin must be paid for.  And if someone dies in their sin, they are already condemned. 

John 3:18  “He who believes in [Jesus] is not condemned [they have been forgiven and given the righteousness of Christ]; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (bracketed information added)

Share the Gospel

 This is a great reason for us to be diligent in sharing the gospel of saving grace with family and friends, and even with strangers.  People leave this earth every minute of every day and without belonging to Jesus they will not enter Heaven.  We should always share the gospel, hoping that the Holy Spirit will work on the person’s heart.  Some will repent and turn to Jesus, but sadly some are very hard-hearted and will stubbornly reject Jesus.  However, even for those there is always hope that before they take their last breath they will surrender to God and trust in Jesus.  The Lord’s mercy is available to all who will call upon Him until they take their last breath.  An example of this is the thief on the cross.  He was saved in the last moments of his life when He trusted in Jesus as Lord (Luke 23:42) and he was given eternal life with Jesus (Luke 23:43).  So also can our friends and family do the same.  If they have a knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done for them, they can turn to Jesus at any time until they die.  Therein lies our hope.  Continue to share the gospel of the saving grace found only in the Lord Jesus Christ with all who do not know Him.  

Conclusion

Regarding Christians who commit suicide, we can rest assured that there is no sin which is unforgivable. Their sins were paid for on the cross by Jesus, and because they have trusted in Him they are forgiven sinners.  

Colossians 2:13-14  And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

And not only are they forgiven sinners, they are also righteous saints who stand in Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus has regenerated us in newness of life (Romans 6:4) and made us worthy to be citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20).  Remember always that we can find peace and comfort in Him, and when any Christian dies (under any circumstances) they go home to Heaven, to be with Jesus (John 14:1-4).

Titus 2:14  who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed [sin] and purify for Himself His own special people…

Philippians 3:20  For our [citizenship/home] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Show compassion and caring for your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Watch for signs that might indicate despairing or darkness in their lives.  Offer hope in Jesus and be ready to share His love.  Be the Lord’s hands of help, His ears of caring, His words of comfort and His embrace of love.  Encourage those who despair to seek solid, Christian counseling, remembering God has a plan and purpose for all His children and He promises to be near us in all the trials of this life.  

Do Not Think Suicide is an Option

Suicide is never an option for a Christian.  The Bible tells us that God is with us in the dark seasons of the soul.  If one is struggling with dark desperation, reach out to a pastor or a brother or sister in Christ.  Trust that there is hope, even when it’s not felt.  Trust that there is a new morning, and the sun will rise, even when the darkness overwhelms. Reach out to God and to those who can hold you up when you cannot stand.  

We all must remember to be Christ’s arms to hold those who suffer and to share His words to comfort those who weep. We must come alongside those who struggle and help them remember the hope they have been given and show them the Light that will break through the darkness.

Finally…We grieve when someone has so despaired that they took their own life. But for those who belonged to Jesus and committed this sin, remember that Jesus died to forgive that sin also. They belong to Him and He loves them and has welcomed them into His arms.   

 

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

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Postscript to those who have written to Got Questions: It is our prayer that God will comfort you in your loss and that you will allow Him to use you to comfort others.  It is a great joy, after God brings you through a storm (whatever that storm might be), to be used by Him to comfort others.  Losing a loved one under any circumstances is painful and only the Lord’s love can give us the rest that we need.  May we comfort others with the comfort that we have been given. –Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus

Thank you, Jesus. . .

 2-Corinthians-14-

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/suicide-rates-rise-especially-for-one-group/

 

Another Postscript:  A reader responded to our article and shared a biblical passage that also illuminates this subject:

Job 36:20  Do not desire the night, When people are cut off in their place.  Job 36:21  Take heed, do not turn to iniquity, For you have chosen this rather than affliction.

Job 36:20-21 are the words of Job’s friend Elihu.  He is speaking to Job and addressing Job’s desire to end his life  (Job 6:9, Job 7:15, Job 14:13) and Elihu said, do not desire to die.  Do not turn to iniquity (sin).  Elihu is saying that Job had chosen despair, and a desire to die, rather than accepting affliction.  The lesson is to trust God and to wait patiently. God has promised to bring us through whatever affliction we are experiencing.

1 Cor 10:13  No temptation [trial, tribulation, affliction] has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tried, tested] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

 

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