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The Bible and Suicide

What Does the Bible Say About Suicide?

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Suicide is the act of intentionally taking one's own life, or as some have called it, "self-murder."

Over the years, I've received several emails from readers with questions about suicide:

  • "Does God forgive suicide, or is it the unpardonable sin?"
  • "Do Christians who commit suicide go to hell?"
  • "What does the Bible say about suicide?"

7 People Committed Suicide in the Bible

Let's begin by looking at the seven accounts of suicide in the Bible.

Abimelech - Judges 9:54
After having his skull crushed under a millstone that was dropped by a woman from the Tower of Shechem, Abimelech called for his armor bearer to kill him with a sword. He did not want it said that a woman had killed him.

Samson - Judges 16:29-31
By collapsing a building, Samson sacrificed his own life, but in the process destroyed thousands of enemy Philistines.

Saul and His Armor Bearer - 1 Samuel 31:3-6
After losing his sons and all of his troops in battle, and his sanity long before, King Saul, assisted by his armor bearer, ended his life. Then Saul's servant killed himself.

Ahithophel - 2 Samuel 17:23
Disgraced and rejected by Absolom, Ahithophel went home, put his affairs in order, and then hung himself.

Zimri - 1 Kings 16:18
Rather than being taken prisoner, Zimri set the king's palace on fire and died in the flames.

Judas - Matthew 27:5
After he betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot was overcome with remorse and hung himself.

In each of these instances, except that of Samson, suicide is not presented favorably. These were ungodly men acting in desperation and disgrace. Samson's case was different. And while his life was not a model for holy living, Samson was honored among the faithful heroes of Hebrews 11. Some consider Samson's final act an example of martyrdom, a sacrificial death that allowed him to fulfill his God-assigned mission.

Does God Forgive Suicide?

There's no doubt that suicide is a terrible tragedy. For a Christian it is an even greater tragedy because it is a waste of a life that God intended to use in a glorious way.

It would be difficult to argue that suicide is not a sin, for it is the taking of a human life, or to put it bluntly, murder. The Bible clearly expresses the sanctity of human life (Exodus 20:13). God is the author of life, thus, the giving and taking of life ought to remain in his hands (Job 1:21).

In Deuteronomy 30:9-20, you can hear the heart of God crying out for his people to choose life:

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life..." (NLT)

So, can a sin as grave as suicide destroy one's salvation?

The Bible tells us that at the moment of salvation a believer's sins are forgiven (John 3:16; 10:28). When we become a child of God, all of our sins, even those committed after salvation, are no longer held against us.

Ephesians 2:8 says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God." (NLT) So, we are saved by God's grace, not by our own good deeds. In the same way that our good works don't save us, our bad ones, or sins, cannot keep us from salvation.

Paul made it plain in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from God's love:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)

There is only one sin that can separate us from God and send a person to hell. In this article, "What is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?," I explain that the only unforgivable sin is refusing to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Anyone who turns to Jesus for forgiveness is made righteous by his blood (Romans 5:9) which covers our sin—past, present and future.

God's Perspective on Suicide

A few years ago, I attended the funeral of a Christian man who had committed suicide. The experience gave me a new perspective on the issue of Christians and suicide.

The man who had killed himself was the son of one our church staff members. In the short time he had been a believer, he touched many lives for Jesus Christ. His funeral was one of the most moving memorials I had ever attended.

With more than 500 mourners gathered, for nearly two hours, person after person testified of how this man had been used by God. He had pointed countless lives to faith in Christ and shown them the way to the Father's love. I left the service convinced that what had driven him to commit suicide had been his inability to shake his addiction to drugs and the failure he felt as a husband, father, and son.

Although it was a sad and tragic ending, nevertheless, his life testified undeniably of Christ's redemptive power in an amazing way. I do not believe this man went to hell.

His funeral made me realize that no one can truly understand the depth of someone else's suffering, or the reasons that could drive a soul to such desperation. Only God knows what is in a person's heart (Psalm 139:1-2). Only he knows the extent of pain which might bring a person to the point of suicide.

In conclusion, it bears repeating—suicide is a terrible tragedy, but it does not negate the Lord's act of redemption. Our salvation rests securely in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. So then, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13, NIV)

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