(Spoiler Alert: Suicide is NOT the unforgivable sin.)
God’s Strong Safety Net: Does a Christian who commits suicide go to Heaven? (500 words)
by Clint Archer
August 6, 2018
This 500 words or less “Hope it helps” series is meant to supply quick and simple answers to questions folks in my church frequently ask. This topic requires a longer, probing, empathetic, and pastoral discussion.
Thankfully, there is a deep and helpful treatment of this very issue on this blog. Josiah Grauman explores the issue with compassion and theological depth in his article from November 15, 2013: Considering Suicide.
But this particular question was asked by a new believer who had come out of Catholicism (where it is taught that the ‘cardinal sin’ of suicide can never be forgiven) and was trying to understand the theology of perseverance of the saints, and assurance of salvation, as it pertains to the case of suicide.
So, if you are curious about the topic and would be satisfied with a superficial treatment in less than 500 words, here it is…
How is it that a Christian who commits suicide can be saved?
Let’s make sure we understand salvation and what it means to be a Christian.
A Christian is a person who trusts in Jesus for salvation, worships him, and commits to obey him. Your salvation is secured by what Jesus did on the cross. If you trust in his work on your behalf, then no sin can ever undo his atonement, or cancel his forgiveness, or make him stop loving and saving you.
Not even the sin of suicide.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Is a certain type of death able to separate you from Christ? No.
Put another way: Is suicide something in all creation? Yes.
So can suicide rob a true believer of his/her salvation? No.
There is no weakness in God’s safety net.
That being said…
The way you and your loved ones have assurance of your salvation is by seeing fruit of repentance in your life.
1 John 2:3-4 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…
Because suicide is a breaking of a commandment to not kill, how can you be sure you have come to know him if you don’t keep the commandments?
The finality of suicide means there is no place to show repentance.
So you don’t lose your salvation, but you lose your assurance.
“Oh,” you say, “I don’t care if I lose my assurance, because I’ll be dead.” Well, if you aren’t sure of your salvation…don’t die! That goes for everyone. If you are not 100% sure of your salvation: you are not ready to die. So get on it.
How can you be sure you are saved?
By trusting in Jesus’ perfect life offered on the cross as a substitute for your sin; and seeing how that faith saves you from your desire to sin, including saving you from the desire to kill yourself.
Another important theological fact to understand is that your sins are not paid for weekly in a re-sacrifice of Christ (as Catholicism teaches), but all your sins were paid for and forgiven in 33AD on the cross.
Col 2:13-14 …God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
So, to summarize:
A true believer’s salvation is secure from everything Satan and self can do to them. True believers can know they’re saved by seeing in their life growth of the fruit of repentance and a deepening desire to please their Savior. The tragedy is that those left behind are left with little assurance of the fate of their deceased loved one.
Hope that helps.
[Just a reminder that this post is not intended to help a person who is struggling with thoughts of suicide; if that is you or someone you know, please make contact with a pastor who can be directly involved in the specific case.]