The Centers for Disease Control report that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2019. One million people worldwide die by suicide every year. That means if you’ve been alive for 30 years, 30 million people have killed themselves in your lifetime. Globally, if you are between 15 and 44 years of age, suicide is in the top three leading causes of death. We hear much about the need to cure cancer and eradicate heart disease, but comparatively little attention is given to the need to prevent suicide. It is not a stretch to say that almost every person has been impacted by the effects of suicide, whether through a family member or their own personal struggles with depression. With suicide so rampant, friends and loved ones are left to wonder, does God forgive suicide?
What does the Bible say about suicide?
What is the answer to this epidemic? I believe the Bible provides ancient wisdom for modern problems. The Bible is not the story of what happened, it’s the story of what always happens. God’s Word speaks of the problem of suicide and speaks clearly to this issue. We see many accounts of people within the Old and New Testaments who chose to take their own lives. Today we are going to take a look at six accounts of suicide within the Bible and discuss the spirit behind them, and then answer a question that many of us have wrestled with – does God forgive suicide? Is my loved one in hell?
Judges 9:54 (ESV)
Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
In the story of Abimelech, he had a willful moment where he basically said, “I’m going to choose the way I die.” Because of the situation they are in, some people say, “I’m not going to let [fill in the blank: cancer, depression, etc] kill me. I’m going to end my own life.” Oftentimes people who kill themselves feel a lack of control over their own lives. The spirit behind this thought process is one that seeks to provide a sense of control. As a pastor, I’ve been to many funerals of people who died by suicide. I have heard frequently, “They chose to end the pain.” This statement belies a sense of control. The lie of suicide is a feeling of control.
If you grew up going to Sunday school, no doubt you heard the story of Samson. We don’t often think of his death this way, but Samson committed suicide.
Judges 16:30 (ESV)
And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
Samson, too, told himself, “I can control.” And as he was telling himself that, he pushed down the pillars of the Temple of Dagon. This was Samson’s attempt to redeem the situation after falling out of the will of God through disobedience. The lie of the enemy was that he could push down the pillars of the temple and kill himself along with the others, and that would justify his disobedience.
1 Samuel 31:4
Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it.
Saul also stepped outside the perfect will of God. Because he was not obedient, he was in a dire situation and felt as if he had no options. He chose to fall on his own sword as a final exercise of choice. This is the psychology of suicide – the lie that suicide gives you an option when you’ve run out of them.
2 Samuel 17:23
When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.
There’s a level of depression where one becomes careless about life. But Ahithophel experienced the opposite. He took care to set things in order and then ended his life as a way to prove he still had control.
You might be noticing a common theme of control in each of these accounts. The ultimate trust in the Lord is understanding that no, you’re not in control. Ultimate trust is giving what little control you do have to Him. Put your faith in Him, come what may, regardless of the outcome.
1 Kings 16:18 (ESV)
And when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house over him with fire and died,
There is another level of despair that says, not only am I going to kill myself, but I’m going to kill others in the process. This is an untold level of destruction. In the story of Zimri, we see how he purposed to burn the king’s house down while killing himself. This is abject recklessness.
This is why we see murder-suicide and first-person shooters. The spirit of murder partners with the spirit of suicide. This happened in my very own family. A distant relative was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his wife was diagnosed with it as well. He wanted to take control of the situation, so he killed his own wife, then turned the gun on himself. This is the device of Satan. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).
Jesus is the great physician. When you put your trust and faith in Jesus, even though doctors say your diagnosis is terminal, you don’t have to believe their report. You place your faith in God and believe that He can heal you. And you also know that even if He doesn’t choose to heal you this side of heaven, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When you come into the truth, you take on a different mindset than the world’s meager attempts at control. You surrender control of your life to Jesus.
Matthew 27:5 (ESV)
And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
Judas betrayed Christ and didn’t believe that there was any redemption for him. Judas believed that he was too far gone. Why was the cross not enough for Judas, but it was for Peter, someone who denied Christ? What if Judas could have been preaching in Acts Chapter 2 alongside Peter? In Acts 2, when Peter stepped up under the power of the Holy Spirit, it was because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the washing by the blood of the lamb, and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. He preached boldly, filled with the Holy Spirit and power.
Why couldn’t Judas have experienced the same redemption as Peter? The difference was that Peter stuck around until the day when he saw and believed. Judas didn’t. He took his own life. In God’s sovereignty, things happened as they did, but I believe Judas could have had the same experience with Christ as Peter. But he gave into the lie that there was no redemption for him.
Does God Forgive Suicide?
Mark 3:28-29 (ESV)
Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.
I’ve wrestled with this question for a long time: does someone who commits suicide automatically go to hell? I believe, based on what we read in Mark 3:28-29, that suicide falls under the category of sins that can be forgiven. I believe the Lord looks at the condition of a person’s mind and heart. Sometimes people experience salvation but are trapped in the bonds of addiction. Maybe they make a permanent decision out of a temporary mental state of drunkenness or being high. Perhaps they choose to take their own life in a moment when despair overwhelms them. I believe God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
As a pastor, I don’t have the jurisdiction to tell you who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. The Bible says you will know them (those who are saved) by their fruit. If you have lost a relative or friend to suicide, and they were a follower of Christ, I believe you will see the love and faithfulness of Jesus as a result of whether or not they accepted Him as their savior. I believe that according to Mark 3:28-29, suicide does not fall under the category of sins that are unforgivable. I hope and pray that it brings some peace and clarity to you to know that.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
God saved you by His grace when you believed, and you can’t take credit for that. It is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things you’ve done, so none can boast about it.
If you’re considering suicide it is probably because you’re in pain and you see death as the only way to make that pain stop. However, there is freedom and healing through Jesus. The pain can stop right now. The physical pain of your condition could persist, or Jesus could supernaturally heal you. Regardless of what happens, you can have a completely different perspective on your life. There are songs still waiting to be composed, books yet to be written, sermons to be preached, and testimonies to be shared. You are here for such a time as this and God is going to use your story to help people set free. Don’t give up. Do not make a permanent decision based on a temporary circumstance.
If you need a renewed sense of purpose, pray this with me:
Heavenly Father, I give you my life. Jesus, wash me clean of my sins. Make me new. Jesus, I don’t want to die – I choose to live for you. I give you my life, Jesus, just as you have given me yours. I belong to you forever. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.
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