Do suicides go to heaven if they were Christian before they died? I know that no one but God can know this, but what in your opinion does Scripture say?
There are things on both sides. I trust Boundless and want to know what you have to say.
I know, especially with your demographic (suicide is the third leading cause of death for people our age), that this will hit home with many readers.
Thank you for trusting Boundless enough to bring such a sobering question. Having had two close friends commit suicide over the years (both Christians), it’s an issue with which I can absolutely empathize.
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I believe in the eternal security of believers, which means I believe that once we are united with Christ through the Holy Spirit and “born again,” or brought into new life, that eternal life is sealed forever. I believe eternal life can’t be “undone” by individual acts of sin, even those for which we have yet to repent.
Obviously, there are well-respected believers and theologians who would disagree with me on this issue, but that is where I am. There is much, much more that goes into both sides of that debate. But for the purposes of this brief article, just know that it’s a position I’ve come to as best as I can understand the issue of salvation through study and much prayer. This is my personal belief and doesn’t necessarily represent any official position of Boundless or Focus on the Family.
So for me, the issue is not how we die, or exit this body, but rather did we know eternal life before exiting. Eternal life, Scripture says, doesn’t begin when we die. It begins when we start knowing the Father through Christ. Before His death, Jesus prayed:
Father, the time has come. Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
And again He says,
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
So for me the question is not whether someone’s last act in this body of flesh was an act of sin, or whether he had anger or jealousy or lust in his heart for which he had not repented, but rather did he know the Father, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” while he was living.
My guess would be that there are many Christians who die suddenly and unexpectedly with un-repented sins still sitting there in their history. A husband bursts out the door in a fit of anger at his wife as he heads to work, becoming angrier with every mile. He crashes his car and dies, or has a heart attack, or whatever.
Does he go to heaven? Well, of course, anger isn’t suicide (or murder, really, of oneself), but at what point is the sin “bad” enough to nullify the eternal life we experienced before we died?
What if a believer only thinks suicidal thoughts but dies involuntarily before he repents of the suicidal thoughts? Did Jesus not say that merely having lust in our hearts was committing adultery? Would not then the serious thought of suicide, or even planning our own suicide, be considered tantamount to doing it?
The sanctification process is just that—a process. Believers are not immediately delivered from all acts of sin upon salvation. They still struggle with a gamut of things, and for many believers that includes self-hatred, depression, thoughts of suicide, and yes, some even act out those thoughts. Some believers struggle with mental illness that can’t seem to be brought under control. But I can’t conclude that short-circuiting the sanctification process by an act of suicide cancels out the salvation.
Yes, I believe I’ll see my friends Petie and Gary again some day, and together again we’ll worship the One who wipes away every tear.
But please know this, it would be better by far to still be walking with them on this side of heaven. Their suicides left huge swaths of pain in their wake, pain that will mark their spouses and children and family and friends forever. As difficult as life was for them, I’m convinced God could have brought the healing they longed for in time. I believe that for every person on this planet.
Copyright 2009 John Thomas. All rights reserved.