Since a person committing suicide can’t repent after the fact, can they end their life and still be saved? I am not insensitive to the fact that this question could be hurtful to those who lost someone to suicide. I also realize that the survivors of those who have taken their own life often have difficulty coping with the feelings of shame, hurt, and anger that follow such a loss. After all, no one wants to lose a loved one, especially if they are unprepared for eternity. This is why this issue often becomes a two-handed discussion where one says, “On the one hand there is this,” and another says, “But on the other hand there is that.” And then there is the argument that says since the Bible does not have a specific law against suicide, it is not salvational. It is true that there is no such law, but I believe it is still a salvational issue. Though the subject of suicide can be contentious, since it is a salvational concern, it still must be discussed. That being said, I believe the Bible gives clear, specific, God-given boundaries that believers are commanded to stay within. Found within these scriptural parameters are teachings that do include suicide. This study’s purpose is to reveal these boundaries and to show how they prove the act of suicide is a salvational issue.
What is Suicide?
The act of ending one’s life would fall under the sin of murder. The first recorded murder was when Cain killed his brother, Able. God judged Cain for ending the life of another man and cursed him to live his life away from the presence of God. The prohibition against murder is found also in the 10 Commandments. There, in the Sixth commandment, it says, “Thou shall not kill.” The Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words defines this Hebrew word translated “kill” as follows:
raw-tsakh’ (H7523) – A primitive root; properly to dash in pieces, that is, kill (a human being), especially to murder: – put to death, kill, (man-) slay (-er), murder (-er).
This meaning is why many translations newer than the King James Version rightly translate this command to say, “You shall not murder.”
Further evidence that suicide is an act of murder is found in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition of “suicide.”
SU’ICIDE, n. [L. suicidium; se and coedo, to slay.]
1. Self-murder; the act of designedly destroying one’s own life. To constitute suicide, the person must be of years of discretion and of sound mind.
2. One guilty of self-murder; a felo de se.
Webster’s definition is aligned to what the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has to say about “suicide.”
Suicide: No special law is found against this crime, for it is included in the prohibition against killing. Contrary to the practice and the philosophy of paganism, the act was held in deep abhorrence by the Hebrews because of the high value placed on human life. It was held inexcusable that any but the most degraded and satanic should lay hands on their own lives. Only the remorse of the damned could drive one to it, as witness Saul (1 Samuel 31:4) and Judas (Matthew 27:5).
So, to summarize: Abel’s murder and the 10 Commandments are not the only passages that speak of murder being sin (see also: Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 21:12-14; Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21; Matthew 26:52-54; Matthew 15:19; Romans 13:8-10; Revelation 21:8). However, they do provide evidence that murder is a sin that keeps those guilty of its action from entering into God’s kingdom. And since suicide is an act of murder, it prohibits those guilty of its action from entering into God’s kingdom as well.
Biblical Examples of Suicide
The Bible speaks of seven acts of suicide. These are as follows:
- Abimelech (Judges 9:54)
A woman nearly ended his life by dropping a millstone on his head from the Tower of Shechem. He did not want it said that a woman had killed him, so Abimelech had his armor bearer kill him with a sword.
- Samson (Judges 16:29-31)
Sometime after his fall, God restored Samson’s strength. Samson used this strength to collapse a building around him and his enemy, the Philistines.
- King Saul (1 Samuel 31:3-6)
In a failed battle, King Saul lost his sons and his troops and was injured by an arrow. To avoid capture he took his own life by falling on his sword.
- King Saul’s Armor Bearer (1 Samuel 31:3-6)
After witnessing the suicide of his king, Saul’s armor-bearer took his own life by falling upon a sword.
- Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23)
Ahithophel went home after being disgraced and rejected by Absolom. Once there he put his affairs in order and then hanged himself.
- Zimri (1 Kings 16:18)
To avoid capture, Zimri set the king’s palace on fire and then died in its flames.
- Judas (Matthew 27:5)
Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. After he saw the part his betrayal would play in Jesus’ crucifixion, he was overcome with guilt and hanged himself.
Sampson’s example is different than the other six examples. Some contend that his manner of death was more aligned to martyrdom than suicide. The Bible seems to agree with this since his name is listed in the “Heroes of Faith” found in Hebrews 11. However, the remaining six self-inflicted deaths are not like Sampson’s. These deaths came at the hand of ungodly men who ended their own life due to one self-serving reason or another. Thus, these remaining six suicides would fall under the sin of murder.
The Bible also mentions times where there were temptations to commit suicide. One of these is Jesus’ temptation after fasting 40 days in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:5-6; Luke 4:9-11). The second is with Paul and Silas and the Philippian Jailer (see Acts 16:27-28). In both of these cases, an action was taken that kept any suicide from taking place. In Jesus’ case, the devil tried to get Him to jump from the highest point of the Temple to test God’s protection. Jesus responded that God’s people aren’t to put themselves in that type of situation and then assume that God will protect or deliver them from the consequences. The second was an unsaved jailer who decided suicide was better than the punishment Rome would give him for losing his prisoners. Paul stopped him and first told him his prisoners were safe and then led him to the salvation in Jesus Christ.
So, to summarize: suicide is found in the Bible and it falls under the sin of murder.
Who Controls Life and Death?
The Bible states that God gives life and that only He has the right to take it away. God created all things we know as “life” (see Genesis 1:1-31). Thus, everything in this world is His. This is why God can require men and women to obey His commands, and why He can judge those who do not. Since God is the originator of life, He claims the exclusive right to be the ender of that gift as well (see 1 Samuel 2:6; Deuteronomy 32:39).
During his trial, Job’s wife advised her suffering husband to end his life by cursing God (Job 2:9). But Job had already stated that his conviction is that only God gave life and only He had the right to take it away (see Job 1:21). Job did speak of preferring death to his suffering, but he left that decision to the will of God.
So, to summarize: God is the creator of human life; as such, He is the one who can dictate how a human being should live their life; and because all life is His, He is the only one who has the right to end human life.
God’s People Are Not Powerless Against Sin
Evil is not the opposite of God, but is instead the absence of God. Likewise, evil is not a force that makes people sin, but is instead a choice that can lead people to sin. Since the unsaved world has not been Born Again in Jesus Christ, it does suffer in sin. But those who have been saved do not have to suffer in sin if they keep themselves in Christ. The apostles John spoke of this freedom and how to keep it in these verses:
1 John 3:7-10 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, EVEN AS HE IS RIGHTEOUS. (8) He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL. (9) WHOSOEVER IS BORN OF GOD DOTH NOT COMMIT SIN; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (10) IN THIS THE CHILDREN OF GOD ARE MANIFEST, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
1 John 5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the VICTORY THAT OVERCOMETH THE WORLD, EVEN OUR FAITH. (5) Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Romans 12:2 And be NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD: but BE YE TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Jesus gives His Church POWER to be forgiven for past sins. He also gives them POWER to overcome their sin-nature. This sin-nature is the core problem that renders mankind appear powerless to sin’s temptations and lusts. Jesus gave His Church an over-coming power when He gave them a new heart and a new Spirit (see Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26; Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16-17). This new heart and nature is called the NEW MAN, which is a new nature that is the opposite of the former sin-nature. Paul spoke of this power here:
Romans 6:6-7 Knowing this, that OUR OLD MAN IS CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, that the body of SIN MIGHT BE DESTROYED, that HENCEFORTH WE SHOULD NOT SERVE SIN. (7) For HE THAT IS DEAD IS FREED FROM SIN.
To say sin is still alive and well in a Born Again person, is to say that Jesus is not! The Bible says to “put on the whole armor of God so you can stand against the wiles of the devil.” If Jesus yet had no victory over sin, His armor would be worthless today against the sin and the works of the devil (see Ephesians 6:10-18).
Through its 613 commandments, the Old Testament Law concluded all under sin. This thereby proved to mankind that they NEEDED THE SAVIOR, Jesus Christ. Jesus was known for telling those He forgave to “Go and SIN NO MORE” (see John 5:14; John 8:11). If this was impossible to do then Jesus was either lying or teaching confusion. These are two things the Bible says Jesus cannot do (see Titus 1:2; 1 Corinthians 14:33). Do people sin? Yes. Is it something that is beyond their power to stop? No. If this was not true, how could God honestly judge men and women for things they were unable to control? But through the resurrection power of Jesus can we stop sinning? YES!
Does a Carnal Man Lose Their Salvation If They Sin?
This is the question every saint of God should ask when tempted to sin. They should ask, if I do this sin, am I still right with God? Do remember that this study’s original question was whether or not a person who ended his or her own life can still be saved. The Bible tells us much about this in Paul’s teachings on the “works of the flesh.”
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
The Bible places all of mankind in one of three spiritual levels. These include: the natural man; the spiritual man; and the carnal man. The natural man includes those who have not been Born Again and are therefore referred to as sinners (see 1 Corinthians 2:14-16). The spiritual man includes those who are Born Again in Jesus’ name and are seeking to follow God in Spirit and in truth (see Galatians 5:16-25). The last group is the carnal man. This group is comprised of Born Again believers who still live in the habits of the natural man. These habits often lead them to sin.
Paul’s Galatians 5:19-21 teaching is dealing with the carnal man, not the natural man. Paul said he was taught by “revelation of Jesus Christ” (see Galatians 1:11-24). Therefore, he knew that Jesus said those who are not Born Again could neither “see” nor “enter” God’s kingdom (see John 3:3, John 3:5). Thus, though it’s a sad reality, an act of suicide would not make a lost person (natural man) any more lost than they already were. However, once a person is baptized in Jesus’ name and receives the Holy Ghost they enter into God’s kingdom and are to follow God’s Spirit and live by His commands. This is the group Paul is addressing (see Galatians 5:16-18). This is why this same chapter lists the fruit of the Spirit, which those who flee the works of the flesh (spiritual man) are to grow (see Galatians 5:22-26).
As shown earlier, the sin of murder includes the act of suicide. When a person commits any of the “works of the flesh,” they are sinning against God and are thereby lost. It is true that God’s salvation is guaranteed to those who live according to His commands. However, the Bible does not guarantee salvation to those who willfully disobey God. The Bible promises blessings to the obedient. It also promises curses to those who are disobedient (see Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). This same doctrine is found in the New Testament as demonstrated in these verses:
Lose your salvation: Romans 6:12-13; Romans 6:16; Romans 8:12-13; Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 3:13-17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Corinthians 10:2-9; 1 Corinthians 10:11-12; 1 Corinthians 11:28-30; 2 Corinthians 11:2-3; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 4:8-9; Galatians 5:1-4; Galatians 5:19-21; Galatians 6:7-9; Ephesians 5:2-6; Philippians 3:10-13; Colossians 1:21-23; Colossians 3:5-9; Colossians 3:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-14; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:11-12; 2 Timothy 2:16-20; Titus 3:8-11; Hebrews 2:1-3; Hebrews 3:12-14; Hebrews 3:18-19; Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:6; Hebrews 4:11; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:23-29; Hebrews 12:12-17; Hebrews 12:25; James 1:14-16; James 2:12-13; James 4:4; James 5:8-9; James 5:19-20; 1 Peter 1:14-17; 1 Peter 3:9-12; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 2 Peter 3:17; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 3:11-12; 1 John 3:14-18; 1 John 5:17; 2 John 8-9; 3 John 11
So, to summarize: without getting into a long dissertation about how sin works within God’s perfect will and His permissible will, I believe the above verses adequately prove that there are sins the “carnal man” can commit that will cause them to lose their salvation.
Can a Carnal Man Regain Their Salvation After They Sin?
Jesus’ sacrifice not only has the power to convert a sinner into a saint, it also has the power to keep a saint as they grow into spiritual maturity. How God does this is He gives saints that sin the opportunity to return to His path of righteousness through repentance. Once they repent of their sin, they are to turn from that sin and resume living their life in Christ. To see the importance God places on repentance, look through these verses:
2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 41:4; Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 44:22; Ezekiel 18:21-23; Ezekiel 18:27; Ezekiel 33:19; Joel 2:13; Matthew 3:2; Luke 5:32; Luke 13:3-5; Luke 15:7; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 26:20; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:25; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 2:5; Revelation 3:19
The apostle John also talked about how repentance for sins leads a person to being restored to God’s salvation.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
By his wording you can see that John’s epistle was written to saved members of Jesus’ Church. Some people believe that God will not take a saint back who has sinned. I believe that belief is an offense against God’s grace. To see how willing God is to receive a sinner back into His Church, ask yourself the following three questions:
- The first day a man or woman begins serving the Lord, how willing is the devil to take them back into his kingdom?
- After walking with the Lord a few days, how willing is the devil to take a saint of God back into his kingdom?
- After being in God’s kingdom for several years, how willing is the devil to take their soul back into his kingdom?
I am sure everyone would agree that in each of these situations, and in all others, the devil is more than willing to take back any soul he has lost to Jesus. As a matter of fact, stealing souls from God’s Kingdom and causing saints of God to miss out on the fullness of God’s Kingdom, is one of the devil’s favorite jobs. With that now established, let me now ask the next question: if the devil is always willing to take a person back, no matter how good or faithful they may have been to God, how much more willing should God be to forgive a person and take them back, regardless how bad or unfaithful they’ve been?
The promise that God’s grace abounds as sin increases helps to put this in perspective (see Romans 5:20). In that verse, Paul indicates that when sin (sin is rebellion against God’s rule) is present, God’s grace (grace is God’s opportunity to obey His will) is available in greater measure. The knowledge of God’s ever-present grace is a vital part of experiencing the fullness of God’s kingdom. To know – without doubt – regardless of the degree we may stray from God’s Will, that God is there wanting to lead us back to His presence, is an empowering element of Jesus’ New Covenant Gospel. The issue of this is not dependent on whether or not God is willing to forgive men and women, but rather if a sinner is willing to believe God’s forgiveness can forgive their sin. Several of the scriptures often mentioned when discussing God’s willingness or unwillingness to forgive the sins of His people are the following: Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 10:26-29; Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29.
So, to summarize: the grace that allows Born Again men and women to repent of their sins also proves that repentance is necessary to renew these men and women back to salvation. Also, according to Jesus and His apostles, other than the sin of blaspheming the Holy Ghost, all other sins can be forgiven. With that said, unlike any of the other sins of the flesh, the sin of suicide disallows a person to repent. This means they have no opportunity to repent and make things right with the God they committed themselves to obey. I believe this is why suicide is aligned not only to murder but also to the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Please, allow me to explain in the next area.
Can a Carnal Man Regain Their Salvation After Suicide?
Before discussing how suicide is aligned to the unforgivable sin of blasphemy, let’s define what “blasphemy” is.
The Webster’s 1858 Dictionary defines blasphemy as follows:
BLAS’PHEMY, n. An indignity offered to God by words or writing; reproachful, contemptuous or irreverent words uttered impiously against Jehovah.
Blasphemy is an injury offered to God, by denying that which is due and belonging to him, or attributing to him that which is not agreeable to his nature.
In the middle ages, blasphemy was used to denote simply the blaming or condemning of a person or thing. Among the Greeks, to blaspheme was to use words of ill omen, which they were careful to avoid.
1. That which derogates from the prerogatives of God. Mark 2.
Thus, Webster’s describes blasphemy as being a direct rejection or attack against God and His Kingdom. It is rebelling–sinning–against God without regard of His truth or His judgment.
The devil sees the weak areas where men are vulnerable to temptation. A saint’s weakness is proportional to the degree their willing to spiritually mature into Christlikeness. If they disregard the life-altering power of Jesus, they will be inundated with lust, but if they spend time seeking Jesus and His Kingdom, then their weakness will be overcome through Jesus’ perfect strength (See Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Satan can plant thoughts into a person’s mind. Through the carnal man’s mind, these thoughts can be birthed into sinful acts. This now brings us to discussing how suicide is aligned with blasphemy of the Holy Ghost.
Both Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 3:28-20 say that all sins and all blasphemies will be forgiven. They then single out one type of blasphemy, “blasphemes against the Holy Spirit.” I believe this is done because the Bible speaks of those who rejected the idea that Jesus’ powers were from the Holy Ghost. They even went on to say that His powers were instead from satan. Unless these people changed their minds, they would miss out on their opportunity to receive Jesus’ New Covenant salvation. Though I’m not a fan of his paraphrased Bible, Eugene H. Peterson clearly communicates this in his The Message Bible.
Mark 3:28-29 MSG “Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.”
So, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not simply a person acting or speaking against the Holy Ghost, but also involves a person’s ongoing rejection of further workings of the Holy Ghost in their life. This latter part is where the act of suicide is synonymous with the unforgivable sin of blaspheming against the Holy Ghost.
Suicide begins with making the wrong decision concerning who is God. Adam and Eve’s original temptation was the promise that they would be their own god and thus be able to decide for themselves what is right and wrong (Genesis 3:4-5). This is the same decision a person makes when they deny God’s command to not kill. Thus, in my opinion, suicide is not an act of weakness and despair but is instead an act of defiance against God. It is the willful action of a man or a woman shaking their fist toward Heaven while telling God that since He did not handle a problem they way they wanted, they have decided to handle it themselves. Thus, suicide is the blasphemous act of rebelling against God’s authority, or as Webster’s said, it is “denying that which is due and belonging to him, or attributing to him that which is not agreeable to his nature.”
So, to summarize: blasphemy is also like suicide in that it cannot be rectified with repentance. The Bible emphatically teaches that no murderer will be allowed into the kingdom of God. As a result those killing themselves would be lost. The deception of suicide is that its promise of escaping misery actually leads to a far greater misery that is eternal.
Are There Exceptions Where Suicide is Not a Sin?
Many people of the Bible where challenged by overwhelming odds. Many also suffered depression for a time. There are also those who cursed the day of their birth and wished they hadn’t been born. Some of these folks include King David (Psalm 13:2-4), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14-18), and Job (Job 7:15-16). These were not the only ones who faced trying times in the Bible. However, each one we see had one thing in common, they persevered through their trials and came out delivered and blessed of God. This is the same thing promised by the apostle Peter (see 1 Peter 5:6-7). Testimonies such as these encourage believers to also trust God and to persevere through their own trials. With that said, there is not one testimonies in the Bible about a person who rebelled against God by committing suicide that gives encouragement to trust God through trying times. And since suicide is an unforgivable sin, there is no recourse for them to be saved from eternal judgment.
Though the Bible is clear about the eternal condition for those who kill themselves, I do not see where this same judgment would apply to those who are unable to understand their actions. I do not believe God would hold a young child or a mentally handicapped individual accountable for taking his or her own life if they were incapable of understanding the complications or the finality of such an action. To me, they would not be guilty of rebelling against God, which is the basis of all sins. This guiltlessness may also include those taking medications that control their minds and lead them to suicidal tendencies. Again, if they are unable to comprehend their action then I do not see how they are accountable. In these type cases, as in all others, God will be the judge. However, if a carnal man or woman does commit suicide, if they before understood what suicide is and the finality of its action, then I believe there’s adequate evidence from the Bible to say that they will receive eternal judgment for their blasphemous sin of self-inflicted murder.
Copyright © 2015 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.