Jesus and Suicide
(Do people who commit suicide automatically go to hell?)
No. Christians do not automatically go to hell simply because they committed suicide. If a Christian was heaven-bound immediately before the suicide, his eternal destination doesn't change simply because of the suicide.
Any discussion about whether Christians go to hell if they commit suicide should include a discussion of the seven people in the Bible who committed "suicide" and also include a discussion about the one person in the Bible who only attempted "suicide". But pastors, Sunday school teachers and lay Christians never think to mention these stories when they discuss the afterlife implications of suicide.
In this essay, I use a very broad definition of the word "suicide"—"The deliberate and intentional shortening of one's own life by any voluntary means, regardless of how short one's life ordinarily would have been without the deliberate intervention, and regardless of whether the motivation for one's suicide is selfish, vengeful, patriotic or heroic."
That being said, I am convinced that NOBODY actually intends to commit suicide. Rather, they actually intend to accomplish some other goal that is more important to them than their own lives, and they are willing to die to accomplish that goal.
Suicides come in three varieties. Either those committing suicide intend to stop their own mental (or physical) pain (and they are SELFISHLY willing to die to accomplish that goal), or they intend to save someone else's life (and they are willing to HEROICALLY die in the place of someone else--i.e. jumping on a grenade to save their fellow soldiers' lives or jumping in front of bullet to save the President's life), or they intend to kill many people as possible as an act of VENGEANCE or PATRIOTISM (and they are willing to die to accomplish that goal--i.e. a kamikaze pilot dies to kill his enemies on a battleship and destroy the battleship itself, or a suicide bomber dies to kill his "enemies" in a crowded restaurant). As I said, none of these people intend dying. Rather they see their death as a means to an end, and end that is far more important to them than life itself.
Once we recognize that there are three types of suicides, not just one, then we can deal with this issue more clearly, especially because the Bible has two examples of people committing suicide to avoid further mental pain, four examples of people committing suicide to avoid further physical pain, one example of a person committing suicide to afford him the opportunity to kill people, and one example of a person attempting suicide to avoid the mental anguish of saving his enemies.
Of the 7 suicides in the Bible, 4 of them involve stories where the person who committed suicide (i.e. King Saul, King Saul’s armor-bearer, King Zimri, and Judas Iscariot) all presumably went to hell.
(1) King Saul committed suicide in 1 Samuel 31:4-5, and from what the Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 28:16-19, we can safely infer that King Saul is most likely NOT in heaven.
(As an aside, there is a follow-up passage in 2 Samuel 1:6-10 where an escaped Amalekite claims that he came across King Saul and discovered that King Saul was not quite dead, and when King Saul asked the Amalekite to “finish the job”, that the Amalekite finished killing King Saul and brought Saul’s crown to David, at which point David killed the Amalekite for killing King Saul. It is not clear however, whether the Amalekite was telling the truth or was lying, perhaps thinking that by bringing King Saul’s crown to David and creating a fictitious story about his “mercy killing” of King Saul that David might have rewarded the Amalekite in some way. I don’t know which is true. But regardless, it is clear that Saul was either already dead from his suicide or he would shortly have been dead from his “suicide” anyway. Therefore, I regard King Saul‘s death as a suicide”.)
(2) According to that same passage, Saul’s armor-bearer “saw” that Saul was dead and then he committed suicide as well. Now we don’t know anything about the spiritual life of Saul’s armor-bearer. But most likely King Saul chose someone like himself to be his armor-bearer, someone who already had the same indifference towards God that King Saul had, and someone who would never rebuke Saul for his many sins, in which case their afterlife destinations would likely be the same. On the other hand, if King Saul was a little like King Herod in Mark 6:20, a man who was an evil man but who actually liked to listen to the preaching of John the Baptist, then there is a very small possibility that King Saul chose an armor-bearer who might have been an actual Man of God like David was, in which case, his armor-bearer might have gone to heaven. Although the Bible does NOT clarify the issue of the spiritual life of Saul's armor-bearer, it is more likely that Saul chose an armor-bearer who was a "man after Saul's own heart" rather than a "man after God's own heart" and therefore Saul's armor-bearer most likely did NOT have a humble, personal, repentant relationship with God and therefore he went to hell.
(3) King Zimri was an evil man who committed suicide by deliberately setting fire to his palace while he remained inside (1 Kings 16:15-19) and so and so we can be sure from the Bible that King Zimri is NOT in heaven. King Zimri only ruled for SEVEN days.
(4) Judas Iscariot committed suicide by hanging himself in Matthew 27:5 and according to Matthew 26:24, Judas is NOT in heaven.
That being said, most Christians believe that the Old Testament Bible characters who had a personal relationship with God and who were greatly used by God all went to heaven, even though there is no mention of their faith in Christ because Christ had not yet come in the flesh. I too believe that this is a reasonable conclusion.
Because of this, I expect that most Christians believe we will see Samson in heaven, even though Samson was certainly not a very good man.
(5) Samson committed suicide by pushing the temple pillars apart and causing the temple to crash down on top himself in Judges 16:28-30, and did so, either as an act of PATRIOTISM, or more likely as an act of VENGEANCE, in order to kill a couple thousand Philistines as the temple collapsed down upon them and upon himself as well. Now there is no reference that God actually told Samson to do this. In fact, in Samson’s final prayer to God he asked God to give him back his strength just so he could kill about 3000 more Philistines and get revenge for his eyes because the Philistines had blinded him (even though the reason the Philistines blinded Samson was because Samson had already killed more than a thousand Philistines in the first place).
If my perspective is correct (that we will indeed see Samson in heaven) then Samson's "suicide" did NOT alter Samson's ultimate afterlife destination.
(6) Ahithophel also committed suicide in 2 Samuel 17:23. Ahithophel was the prophet who, according to 2 Samuel 16:23, repeatedly gave Godly advice to King David. But Ahithophel’s granddaughter was Bathsheba. We know this because Ahithophel's son was Eliam (2 Samuel 23:34b) and Eliam's daughter was Bathsheba (2 Samuel 16:23). So when David committed adultery with Ahithophel's granddaughter Bathsheba and arranged for the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, this most likely this angered Ahithophel. It is not surprising then, that when David’s son Absalom took the throne from his father David (forcing David to flee from Absalom) Ahithophel stayed with Absalom instead of going with David. Then Absalom asked Ahithophel for advice on how to use Israel's army to pursue, capture and kill David, and Ahithophel responded by giving Absalom the "correct" advice. But when Ahithophel saw that his "correct" advice was not followed by Absalom and as a result, David would escape from being killed in battle, Ahithophel went home and committed suicide. Presumably, Ahithophel was hoping that God would allow David to be killed in battle for committing adultery with Ahithophel's granddaughter and for arranging the murder of his grandson-in-law, Uriah the Hittite. But when Ahithophel realized that God was NOT going to allow David to die in battle, Ahithophel's hope that God would punish David was destroyed, and so Ahithophel went home and committed suicide. But otherwise, Ahithophel appears to have been a godly man about whom nothing bad is said in the entire Bible, and who regularly gave Godly advice to David (2 Samuel 16:23), presumably because he had a personal relationship with God and therefore we are likely to see Ahithophel in heaven. In fact, one might say that Ahithophel represents the closest example of a possible “Christian” in the Old Testament who also committed suicide.
However, if we see both Samson and Ahithophel in heaven, then it becomes even more clear that suicide (by itself) does NOT alter one's eternal afterlife destiny.
(7) Jonah attempted suicide and failed. Jonah was a prophet who initially refused God’s command to preach repentance to the Assyrians living in Nineveh because he hated the Assyrians and he wanted God to destroy them instead. So Jonah boarded a ship and deliberately sailed in the direction opposite of where God told him to go. And when a storm came up and the ship was in danger in Jonah 1:12, rather than tell the ship’s captain that God will stop the storm if he turns the ship around and heads back to port, Jonah instead tells the captain and crew to throw him into the sea. Jonah expected he would drown in the sea so he would not have to preach repentance to the Assyrians, and so Jonah imagined that God would have to destroy the Assyrians instead. In other words, Jonah would rather commit suicide by asking others to throw him into the sea instead of doing what God told him to do. But since Jonah was not willing to directly kill himself, he asked others to kill him instead. This is rather like the person with a gun who wants to commit suicide by having the cops kill him rather than kill himself because he is having difficulty pulling the trigger to kill himself. This is commonly called “suicide by cop” or “suicide by others”. Jonah's attempted “suicide by others” would surely have worked had not God saved Jonah by having a whale miraculously swallow him and vomit him back onto the Assyrian shoreline near Nineveh. Despite this, most people still presume we’ll see Jonah in heaven.
So both Samson and Ahithophel committed suicide and presumably went to heaven, while Jonah attempted “suicide by others”, an attempt that surely would have been successful had God not intervened and miraculously saved Jonah from death. So any discussion about whether Christians go to heaven if they commit suicide surely should include a discussion of these three men. For if these three men still went to heaven after they committed suicide (or after attempting "suicide by others"), then surely if a Christian who committed was heaven-bound immediately BEFORE his suicide, then it should be self-evident that the suicide itself does NOT change the person's afterlife destination.
(8) Finally we come to the LAST and most important suicide--Jesus Christ himself while on the cross. Remember, my earlier definition of suicide was, "The deliberate and intentional shortening of one's own life by any voluntary means, REGARDLESS OF HOW SHORT ONE'S LIFE ORDINARILY WOULD HAVE BEEN WITHOUT THE DELIBERATE INTERVENTION, and regardless of whether the motivation for one's suicide is selfish, vengeful, patriotic or heroic." This definition makes euthanasia to be a form of suicide.
So the question is, "Did Jesus supernaturally euthanize himself on the cross so he would die more quickly than usual?" If Jesus did this, then Jesus indeed committed suicide on the cross.
Jesus’ life on the cross would have only been two or three more days, maximum. Most people who were crucified lasted long enough so the Romans had to deliberately break their legs to hasten their demise. Rather than linger on the cross for two or three more horrific days of pain until he died, I believe Jesus deliberately shorted his life to just six hours in order to end his own suffering.
You see, in John 10:18, when Christ says he has the power to lay down his life and the power to take it up again, does this mean that Christ may have deliberately shortened his own lifespan by several hours while on the cross and that’s why the Roman soldiers may have been surprised that Christ was already dead so they didn’t break his legs? If so, then if Christ did indeed commit suicide while on the cross by shortening his own life (from two or three days down to a mere six hours simply in order to lessen his own pain on the cross) then what is God’s view of suicide for people in physical or emotional pain, and what is God’s view of euthanasia?
In John 10:14-18 it reads, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. NO ONE TAKES IT FROM ME, but I LAY IT DOWN OF MY OWN ACCORD. I HAVE AUTHORITY TO LAY IT DOWN and AUTHORITY TO TAKE IT UP AGAIN. This command I received from my Father.”
When Jesus says he has the authority to “Take it up again”, it clearly means he has the power to re-start his heart and rise from the dead. By logical extension, the expression, “I have the authority to lay it down” must therefore mean, “I have the power to STOP my heart and die, anytime I want to”, which is why Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. According to these verses, Jesus may very well have been prophesying to his disciples that he intended to die rather quickly on the cross, NOT from the crucifixion itself (which might have taken a few days), but by simply stopping his own heart (after only six hours).
But if Jesus did indeed commit suicide on the cross, then this confirms that suicide by itself does NOT send someone to hell!
Of course, this raises a question, "What is God’s view of suicide for people in physical or emotional pain and what is God’s view of euthanasia?"
In addition, since suicide is considered to be self-murder, then a discussion of the two murderers in the Bible that went to heaven (Moses and David) and the one person in the Bible that was involved in conspiracy to commit murder (Paul) should be discussed.
Further, the idea that suicide is a sin for which you cannot ask forgiveness after you commit that sin should be discussed. Many Christians do not have the habit of immediately confessing their sins after they have been committed, but sometimes wait for a few minutes, hours or days to pass until their anger has passed and the Holy Spirit generates enough guilt within them to prompt them to confess and to repent of their last sins. Unfortunately, sometimes a few of these Christians unexpectedly die before they can confess their sins, perhaps in car accidents or industrial accidents or for other unexpected reasons. Does a Christian who unexpectedly dies before he was able to confess his last few sins automatically go to hell? Of course not. Suicide is just like that. Suicide is just one more “sin” that a Christian commits that he is unable to confess after he has committed that sin. Since many Christians die unexpectedly with some sins still un-confessed and yet still go to heaven, then dying with some sins still un-confessed sin (like suicide) does not prevent Christians from going to heaven. Besides, Christ died for all our sins, past, present and future.
Finally, if a man commits suicide by throwing himself on a grenade to save his soldier friends, Christ says that it is actually a good thing to commit suicide in this way. For Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV) So if committing suicide to rescue someone from something is not a sin, then why are we so sure it is a sin when a man commits suicide to just rescue himself from something?
There are three stories in the Bible where a person either commits suicide (i.e. Samson, the prophet Ahithophel) or attempts suicide (i.e. the prophet Jonah) and all three of these people probably went to heaven. If a righteous person in the Old Testament were to go to hell just because he committed suicide, or if a Christian in the New Testament were to lose his salvation and go to hell just because he commits suicide, these three stories would be the perfect places in the Bible for God to teach us this lesson, but that lesson is conspicuously missing from these stories and missing from the entire Bible itself.
There is no Bible evidence that God removes his saving grace from someone just because that person committed suicide.
There are four additional stories in the Bible where a person commits suicide (i.e. King Saul, King Saul’s armor-bearer, King Zimri, Judas Iscariot) and all four probably went to hell, but in none of these four stories did God say that the suicide itself was a sin or that the suicide by itself was what sent that person to hell.
Therefore, it appears that God judges a person based upon their entire life, their faith and their personal relationship with God and Christ before the suicide and does not judge a person based upon the suicide itself.
There are two murderers in the Bible who went to heaven (i.e. Moses and David) and one person who committed conspiracy to commit murder (the Apostle Paul, before he was saved), and yet all three of them went to heaven.
There is no Bible verse or Bible command where God says that committing suicide (“self-murder”) is a sin. In other words, suicide itself is never condemned in the Bible.
The only time God addresses the issue of suicide at all in the Bible is in the context of rescuing some one else, and in that context, committing suicide is loving, praiseworthy and commendable, and by inference, probably even worthy of increased eternal rewards. Therefore, the Bible teaches that depending upon the circumstances, suicide may be commendable but is never damnable.
In the Bible, God arranges sins in the order of importance to him, from the greatest sins to the least sins:
(1) the unpardonable sin,
(2) sins with death penalties plus the command to “show no mercy” (i.e. idolatry, deliberate murder),
(3) all the other death penalties (where God leaves out the command to “show no mercy”,
(4) sins of violence creating a serious or permanent injury, requiring an “eye for an eye” or a whipping as a merciful alternative,
(5) sins requiring just a whipping,
(6) sins requiring remuneration (i.e. stealing),
(7) dietary sins and other sins with no mention of any earthly punishment at all, (i.e. sins of the mind, like lust)
(8) things we imagine might be sinful when there is lots of Biblical evidence to support this idea (i.e. cremation: There are 13 verses or Bible stories to support the idea that cremating someone displeases God and is a sin),
(9) Pseudo-sins: things we imagine might be sinful, but in reality these things are not true sins at all, for there is no evidence anywhere in the Bible that these things are sins (i.e. drinking small amounts of alcohol and never getting drunk, and committing suicide). These things are not truly sins at all, but there is always some person or pastor out there who would claim that the drinking any alcohol at all or committing suicide is a sin, even with zero Biblical proof.
According to the above list, committing suicide would be ranked so low on God’s list of sins, that it would not be included at all. Therefore, once again, the act of committing suicide is not really a sin at all, or at worst, is a sin of very minor importance to God (that is not even listed in the Bible as a sin) compared to all the other sins the person has done in his life prior to the suicide (that are listed in the Bible as sins).
Since suicide is either not a sin at all, or would be ranked so low as a sin so as to be inconsequential in God’s eyes and not even on God’s list of sins, that God would surely not send a Christian to hell just because he committed suicide.
The Bible teaches that Christ died for our sins, past, present and future. The Bible does not teach that if a person commits a few sins in the morning but dies unexpectedly a few hours later in an accident with those few sins still un-confessed, that he will go to hell because of those few un-confessed sins. Because of unexpected car crashes, etc. it is fair to say that a small minority of Christians die unexpectedly with un-confessed sin and yet still go to heaven. Therefore, since Christians can still go to heaven with un-confessed sin, then it is incorrect to say that a Christian who commits suicide will go to hell just because of this one un-confessed sin.
Some people claim that “A real Christian would never commit suicide”, because it should be enough for us to just “cast all our burdens upon the Lord”. An equivalent expression might be, “Someone who is truly heaven-bound (in the Old Testament) would never commit suicide”. However, there are actually no Bible verses or Bible stories to support that point of view. And generally, when there are no Bible verses or Bible stories to support a person’s point of view, it is because that person’s point of view is wrong. Besides, if the idea that "a real believer would never commit suicide" is true, then neither Samson nor the prophet Ahithophel, nor the prophet Jonah went to heaven.
In conclusion, in my opinion, people who commit suicide do NOT go to hell simply because they committed suicide.
By the way, if you look at the definition of suicide the the following three dictionaries, you will see that First, let's look at the definition of suicide. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (on-line), the definition of suicide is, "The act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally". The English-Oxford Living Dictionary (on-line) definition of suicide is, "The action of killing oneself intentionally." Finally, the Dictionary.com definition of suicide is, "The intentional taking of one's own life."
There is nothing in the definition of suicide that specifies that the deceased must be depressed with life to qualify as a suicide, nor does the definition of suicide exclude those who die in war as kamikaze pilates, or die in war by jumping on a grenade to save their fellow soldiers' lives in war, or die by prompting others to kill them, as in a "suicide by cop" scenario.