Bible Question:

I am wondering if Samson went to heaven even though he killed himself? I know that God wanted him to destroy the Philistines, but did Samson commit suicide?

Bible Answer:

The passage you refer to is found in the book of Judges.

And 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 16:29-30 (NASB)

Did Samson Commit Suicide?

No, Samson did not commit suicide. The Philistines had captured him and placed him between two pillars. A large crowd had gathered to see Samson. About 3,000 men and women were on the roof above him (Judges 16:27). So when he pushed the pillars apart in order to destroy the enemy, the building came down and many were killed, including himself. But Samson did not commit suicide. His action was an act of war against a bitter enemy. The book of Judges documents an ongoing conflict between the nation of Israel and the nation of the Philistines (Judges 3:3, 31; 10:6-11; 13:1-5; 14:1-17; 15:-11; 16:1-30). The books of 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles document more conflicts. In Amos 1:8 God promises Israel that the nation of  the Philistines will perish eventually. This helps us understand that the Philistines were persistent and bitter enemies. Samson’s goal was to kill, not himself, but the Philistines. Soldiers who die in battle against an enemy are heroes. They are not guilty of the sin of suicide when they die to protect fellow troops. Today, we honor soldiers who sacrifice themselves for other soldiers. Since Jesus willingly came to die for us, did He commit the sin of suicide? No! We worship Him for saving us!

Suicide Is a Sin

The scriptures clearly teach that suicide is a sin since the person has murdered themselves for a self-centered purpose. When the 1611 the King James Bible was translated, the sixth commandment in the Ten Commandments was translated as “Thou shalt not kill.” But the meaning of the word “kill” has changed its meaning with the passage of time. In the 1611  King James Bible the word “kill” meant “murder” and “slay” meant to “kill.”  Today, the correct translation from the Hebrew text should be,

You shall not murder.  Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17  (NASB)

Consequently, since suicide is murder it is a sin.

View #1 – Those Guilty of Suicide Might Be Able To Go to Heaven

There are two major views about the destiny of those who commit suicide. The first view was taught by the Roman Catholic Church. The Church taught that suicide sends the guilty person to hell. But scripture never teaches that suicide sends anyone to hell. Yet, the Roman Catholic Church taught that suicide would send the guilty to hell until 1983.  The following quote from Professor Ramón Martínez De Pisón will explain, however, that the Church has changed its view. It should be noted that he is a full professor in the department of Counseling and Spirituality at the University of Saint-Paul.

In fact, in canon 1240.1 of the Codex Iuris Canonici [Codex of Cannon Law] of 1917, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the Christian burial of those who committed suicide. As Range et al. highlight, suicide was considered a grave sin . . . The Roman Catholic Church no longer speaks of the eternal damnation of those who commit suicide. This change took place already “in the Roman Catholic canon law in 1983.” Therefore, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” This also means that there is no longer an interdiction of Christian burial for those who commit suicide.”[1]

The website of Catholics United for the Faith also states that the canon law regarding suicide was changed with the adoption of Canon 1184.

Clearly there has been a change in how the Church looks at suicide.[2]

The change also allowed a person who died by suicide to have a Christian funeral. Father Kenneth Doyle writes,

In contrast to older versions of the Code of Canon Law, Canon 1184 no longer lists a person who died by suicide as someone who should not be given a Christian funeral.[3]

Historical records attest to the fact that in 1983, the church rewrote canon law with Canon 1184 to open the door to possible forgiveness and Christian burial for the one who commits the sin of suicide.

Today, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that suicide is a “grave sin” that can be a mortal sin if the person does it with full knowledge and deliberate consent.[4]  If that is the situation, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the person can go to heaven but only if God grants them salutary repentance. Here is a quote from 2283 of the catechism of the Catholic Church,

We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.[5]

That is, one who has committed suicide cannot go to heaven without some type of repentance in the afterlife.

But the Bible never teaches that any repentance, work or deed is possible after death. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation or eternal life is by faith alone and not by works (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9).

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, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)

If the principle in Ephesians 2:8-9 is not absolute, then we cannot trust anything  we read in the Bible.

Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that salvation or eternal life is a gift and cannot be earned by anything one does. Therefore, how can a Christian be required to repent or do some work in order to continue to have eternal life? Romans 8:1-2 tells us that every Christian does not need to worry about ever being condemned in the future due to any sin.

Therefore there is now no  condemnation for those who are  in  Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1-2 (NASB)

The root Greek word that is translated as “condemnation” is katakrimao and it means “to judge someone as definitely guilty and thus subject to punishment.”[6]  That is, Christians will never be judged guilty and have to worry about future punishment once they trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

Further in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we discover in Luke 16:26 that after death no one can change their destiny. The verse says, “none may cross over” between Abraham’s bosom or heaven and Hades. Then later in the parable, the rich man pleads for someone to speak to those who are still alive on earth about Jesus Christ (Luke 16:27-31). If someone could be saved after death, why did the rich man plead for someone to talk with his family before they died? This clearly reveals that a decision must be made about Jesus Christ before we die. The decision has already been made at death. The Bible teaches that after one dies, judgment awaits us. There are no second chances.

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment . . . Hebrews 9:27  (NASB)

Therefore, suicide is not a sin requiring special intervention by God. It should be noted that the Bible never calls any sin a grave sin or a mortal sin. Sin is sin. Yes, suicide is a sin but if a Christian commits suicide, they will go to heaven because their sins were already forgiven in Jesus Christ. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Salvation is by faith and not by any work in this life or after death.

The Roman Catholic Church has added a teaching that is not in the Bible when they claim 1) that there is a possibility of repentance after death and 2) implies that a Christian might lose their eternal life. Jesus repeatedly promised in John 6:39, 40, 44, 47 and 54 every Christian will be “raised on the last day.” That is, have eternal life. That is exactly what Christ promised in John 3:16. One promise was that we will not perish and the second promise was eternal life.

View #2 – Those Guilty of Suicide Can Go to Heaven

The second view states that any sin is serious enough to send anyone to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14). The following verses describe those who will go to hell at death.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NASB)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NASB)

Both of these passages include sins that we have all committed at some time in our life. That is, we all deserve to go to hell. God does not call these “moral failures” or “mistakes.” He calls them sins, and Jesus came to forgive those sins. At the moment someone trusts in Jesus Christ to forgive their sins, all their sins are forgiven. God does not forgive one or two sins. He forgives all of their sins – past and future ones (Romans 8:1-2). There is no sin too great that God will not and cannot forgive. That is, a Christian is declared to be as righteous as God (Romans 5:19). At the moment of saving faith God judicially declares every Christian to be as holy as He is and, consequently, no penance or some other type of work is ever required in the future in order to go to heaven.

It should be noted that some people will point to 1 John 1:9 and claim that our sins are not forgiven unless they are confessed.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 (NASB)

They say this verse proves that the one who commits suicide must do something, such as repentance, in order to enter heaven. 1 John 2:1-2 helps us understand 1 John 1:9.

 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is  the  propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also  for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2 (NASB)

Here we are told the even when we sin, Christ defends us because He is our advocate or defense attorney. That is, 1 John 1:9 is not about escaping eternal condemnation. It refers to the daily clean up of our relationship with God and not the status of our eternal destiny. 1 John 1 is addressed to Christians. Since God has declared Christians to be as holy as Himself, He only wants us to confess or admit our sins when we sin. It is an admission of guilt and an act of humility.

Jesus Christ is the advocate or defense attorney for Christians. As a defense attorney He defends Christians against accusations that they have sinned. Thus God the Father is pleased. That is the meaning of the word propitiation.

Therefore, there is no need for a Christian to worry when he or she commits the horrible sin of suicide because Jesus Christ is constantly defending Christians (Romans 8:1-2).

Conclusion:

Suicide is a violation of God’s command to not murder (Exodus 20:13). We can murder ourselves! But when Jesus forgives, He forgives all of our past sins, present sins, and future sins. Jesus has forgiven all of the sins of a person who believes Him  – from the moment one believes or trusts Him to forgive their sins. His forgiveness is so complete that it includes even those sins that we might not have time to confess before we die.

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?  God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is  in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:33-39 (NASB)

And that includes you!

 

References:

1. Ramόn Martίnez De Pisόn. Death by Despair. Peter Lang Publishing. 2006. ISBN10: 0820463825, p .51. The author is a full professor in the department of Counseling and Spirituality at the University of Saint-Paul (http://ustpaul.ca/index.php?mod=employee&id=8).
2. Catholics United for the Faith (www.cuf.org).
3. Catholic Phiily (http://catholicphilly.com).
4. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Liberia Editrice Vatican. Boston. 1994. section 2283, p. 550.
5. Ibid., Section 1857, p. 455.
6. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 555). New York: United Bible Societies.

Reference Links:

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