Do people who commit suicide go to hell since they cannot repent?
The Roman Catholic Church has historically taught that those who commit suicide go to hell because they cannot repent and be forgiven before they die. But does the Bible teach that those who commit suicide go to hell?
Suicide In The Bible
There are a number of examples of suicide in the Bible. The first recorded suicide is found in Judges 9:52-54. On this occasion we are told that a millstone had fallen on King Abimelech, crushing his head. Since he knew he was going to die, he asked his armor-bearer to kill him and he did. This was an assisted suicide. Scripture has many other examples of suicide or assisted suicide (Judges 16:28; 2 Samuel 1:1-10; 2 Samuel 17:23; 1 Kings 16:18; 1 Chronicles 10:1-6; Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 1:16-20).
In none of these historical suicides does the Bible reveal the eternal destiny of these individuals, except for Judas who is described as the son of perdition (John 17:12). That is, he went to hell. But he went to hell because he did not believe in Christ and betrayed Him.
Suicide Is Prohibited In Scripture
It is either intentional deception or due to a lack of biblical knowledge and understanding to claim that Scripture never prohibits suicide, since Exodus 20:13 prohibits murder.
You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13 (NASB)
It should be noted that the Hebrew word that is typically translated as “kill” in Exodus 20:13 more accurately refers to murder or intentionally causing someone to die. Since suicide is an intentional act, it is murder. The command to not murder is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21; Romans 13:9 and James 2:11. All murder is sin (2 Samuel 12:9-10), including self-murder. That is the clear teaching of Scripture.
Destiny of Those Committing Suicide
But do people who commit suicide go to hell since they cannot repent? Obviously those who commit suicide cannot repent of that sin since they are dead. Therefore, where do those who commit suicide spend eternity?
Destiny of Unbelievers
Scripture teaches that unbelievers are already destined for hell because they did not believe in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. That is the message of John 3:16 and 18. John 3:16 gives two promises. The first promise is that if someone believes in Christ they will not perish, that is, they will not go to hell. The second promise is that if someone believes in Christ they will have eternal life; that is, they will go to heaven.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NASB)
Then John 3:18 reveals that those who do not believe in Christ have already been judged and are already destined for hell.
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18 (NASB)
The message is that those who refuse to believe in Christ are already judged and will perish. They do not have eternal life. This means that unbelievers who commit suicide will go to hell because that was already their destiny.
Destiny of Believers
Those who are believers or Christians, who choose to commit suicide, will still go to heaven, not because they did not sin by committing suicide, but because Christ made two promises in John 3:16 that those who believe in Him will not perish and will have eternal life (see above). In John 6:39-40 Jesus adds to His promise in John 3:16 when He says that everyone who believes in Him will be raised up on the last day and have eternal life.
This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. John 6:39-40 (NASB)
Jesus states this promise two times in this passage and then repeats the promise with even more dogmatic words in John 6:44, 54. In John 6:47 Jesus gives the promise again that those who believe in Him have eternal life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. John 6:47 (NASB)
Later in John 10:27-29 Jesus repeats the promise again that believers will never perish.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:27-29 (NASB)
Christ even adds that no one can snatch a believer out of His hand and no one can snatch a believer out of the Father’s hand. Some have claimed that a Christian can jump out of Christ’s hand and also out of the Father’s hand. But such a conclusion is wrong since Christ says “no one” can snatch or remove a Christian, which includes the individual believer. That is, Christ’s promises are true promises and the true Christian will end up in heaven, no matter what he or she does. That is, a believer’s spiritual destiny does not depend upon his or her works or sins. If heaven depends upon our works or upon our behavior, then salvation is not by faith but by works. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that salvation is not based on works. A Christian’s destiny depends upon Christ’s promise. All the past, present and future sins of a Christian are forgiven at the moment of saving faith.
Scripture teaches that true Christians will never be condemned (Romans 8:1).
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NASB)
The Greek word for condemnation is katakrima, which means “to judge someone guilty.” That is, Christians will never be judged guilty again. Why? Romans 5:1 says Christians have been justified, which means that Christians have been judicially declared to be righteous, That is, God has acted like a judge and declared us to be holy or to be righteous because He has forgiven our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:21 is even more forceful when we are told that Christians are considered to be as righteous as God.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
That is, once a person is a Christian, Christ has promised him or her that they are going to heaven. Christ repeatedly promised we will go heaven. Heaven is secure!
Therefore, if a person is truly a Christian and in a moment of sinful weakness commits suicide, he or she will still go to heaven, even though the individual cannot repent of that sin. The individual will go to heaven because God judicially declared them to be righteous at the point of their salvation, even though they still sin. No sin will prevent a Christian from going to heaven. If a single sin can prevent a Christian from going to heaven, then God lied. He made a promise that He will not keep. The Scripture tells us that God is not a man that He should lie.
Therefore, an individual’s spiritual destiny is not affected by suicide. The unbeliever, who was headed for hell, will still go to hell if he or she commits suicide. The believer, who is headed for heaven, will still go to heaven if he or she commits suicide.
Suicide is a tragic sin, but it is not a sin that is more grievous than any other sin. Those who disagree should search the Bible and try to find a verse that says suicide is the worst sin. They will not find any verse that states that because none exist. Ausgustine of Hippo said these words,
It is significant that in Holy Scripture no passage can be found enjoining or permitting suicide either in order to hasten our entry into immortality or to void or avoid temporal evils. – Augustine of Hippo
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Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me . . . Jeremiah 9:23-24
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