Suicide is a desperate act and a traumatic event for family and friends. What does the Bible say about suicide and the fate of those who commit suicide?
Some religions teach that suicide is an unforgivable sin. But what does the Bible say about suicide?
Is suicide a sin?
There can be no doubt that intentionally killing oneself is a sin. The Sixth Commandment clearly states, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), and suicide is murdering oneself.
Yet we should not be quick to condemn a person who dies in this manner, for typically, he or she has been dealing with incredibly weighty problems. Those problems might include some form of drug addiction, including alcoholism. They might include one or more of a number of mental illnesses, which can be difficult to comprehend even for those who deal with them professionally. In addition, the person who commits suicide often has been dealing with these issues secretly, the depth of his or her struggle known only to himself or herself.
(Note: If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, in the U.S. contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For suicide hotlines in other countries, see suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html.)
Does God forgive suicide?
Would God condemn someone for all eternity whose last act is a sin? We should not presume to make a judgment about one’s eternal destiny. Passing final judgment is God’s prerogative, which He has delegated to Jesus Christ (John 5:22), not to us. Certainly, we can make a judgment that suicide is the wrong way to deal with one’s problems, but we should leave eternal judgment up to God.
Could God extend mercy, even to a believer who takes his or her life? After all, a believer certainly knows that suicide is wrong. Consider what the Psalms show about the character of God: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:11). The Bible even weighs mercy against judgment, concluding that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
Thankfully, God judges each of us on our entire Christian life, rather than upon a single mistake.
Is there hope for unbelievers who commit suicide to have life after death?
Having considered the potential future for believers who die by suicide, what about those who do not believe in God who die in this manner? Is there any hope for them to be brought back to life again? Yes, there is.
Suicide is shocking and has a terribly traumatic effect upon those who survive. Because that is the case, some view suicide as “an unforgivable sin.” But it is not “a worse sin” than others. Countless people die without repenting of the many sins they have committed in their lifetime. What happens after we die—including someone who takes his or her life—if we have not repented of our sins? (Learn more about life after death.)
The typical assumption that most Bible-believing people make about the afterlife is that there are only two possible options: that one goes immediately to either heaven or hell upon death. In fact, the Bible nowhere teaches that heaven is the reward of the saved or that an ever-burning hell is the destiny of the condemned. The truth is that God has not finished working with most people who have lived and died. Being the epitome of fairness, He would in no way condemn someone who died without ever having understood God’s plan of salvation.
God has not yet done this with most people who have ever lived.
The hope of the resurrection
The way God will work with these people is to bring them back to life (to physical existence), so that they might have their one and only chance at salvation. Allow us to repeat that point, so that there will be no misunderstanding. This is not a second chance at salvation, but rather the only chance for these people. But do not take our word for this resurrection to physical life. Take God’s Word for it.
Consider this remarkable teaching from Christ. He spoke of people who lived in different centuries being brought back to life and coming face-to-face in “the day of judgment” (Matthew 11:20-24; 12:41-42; Luke 10:12-15). Christ spoke of the sinners of Sodom and the “wicked” people of Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh being brought back to life with the queen of Sheba. He also told those hearing His words at the time (in the first century) that they would be brought back to life along with all of these others. There is only one way this could happen—God must resurrect them together.
Rather, this is a second resurrection, which the Bible says will occur 1,000 years after Christ returns. The prophecy of Revelation says that “the rest of the dead” (those who died without having had a chance at salvation) will “not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5).
Much reason for hope for those who have considered or committed suicide
In summary, what does the Bible say about suicide? It gives much reason for hope about the future of one who dies by his or her own hand. We hope that the truth is comforting to our readers who struggle with the terrible grief that only those close to one who dies by suicide can know.
For more understanding of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide prevention, see our blog posts “Overcoming Dangerous Emotions: Depression,” “Robin Williams’ Silent Killer: Depression,” “Living Under the Dark Cloud: One Man’s Struggle With Depression” and “When Depression Turns Deadly: Understanding Suicide.”