|Series Theme: Difficult Questions|
Title: 17. Can a person who commits suicide go to heaven?
A series that helps consider difficult questions of the Christian faith
Is it possible that a person who takes his life at his own hands can then go to heaven?
The short answer, we believe, is yes, it's possible that they can do. There will be others (and this has been the historical Christian viewpoint) who will disagree with us, but let's explain why we reach this conclusion.
For a person to reach the point of actually taking their own life, it means that they reached the point of ultimate desperation.
To have reached that point means that either they were mentally ill, or that they were under such spiritual attack at that moment that they felt unable to resist.
a) The Case of Mental Illness
People do get mentally ill, and sometimes that includes Christians. Is this some form of judgement of God upon them? Probably not.
In a Fallen world people do get ill and it sometimes includes Christians for no explicable reason. Some great men of God have suffered and died from things other than old age!
How did this person get to such a point that they took their life? We don't know. All we do know is that for whatever reason, help was not forthcoming for them and we, the Christian community, obviously had not received from God the wisdom, grace and power for healing.
b) The Case of Spiritual Attack
Unless you have been under such attack you will not understand the intensity of the warfare that can sometimes take place.
Why are such people vulnerable? There may be a variety of reasons and they may include the fact that we, the Christian community, were not there for them when they most needed it.
Yes, there may have been spiritual failure in their life but isn't that also true in millions of other lives that have not been pushed to this degree?
c) What about the decision to end life?
Isn't the decision to take your own life a sin? Traditionally many parts of the Church have thought so. However, consider the following if you will.
God allows us to make all kinds of decisions in life. If you are a Christian you will probably have asked God to guide you in your decision making.
Sometimes you may have made decisions and they were wrong, and you have to rely on God's forgiveness that comes through the Cross of Christ. At the time you may have made the decision in good faith, because we don't always get our guidance right! Hence the need for the Cross of Christ!
Sometimes we make life decisions which we feel, as Christians, quite happy about. A considerable number of Christians are quite happy with the concept of family planning, i.e. contraception. This is a decision to prevent life occuring.
If you are comfortable to make decisions to prevent life coming into the world, it is illogical to deny the right to make the decision as to when you leave it.
The commandment, "You shall not kill" is a clear and specific forbidding the taking the life of another person. Commandments 6 to 10 of the Ten Commandments prevent the harming of other people in any way. But does it refer to your own life? The Bible is not specific.
d) Heaven or hell?
The outcome, we would suggest, does not hinge on the manner of departure from this life. The criteria for where you go after this life, is did you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? (For those who have never heard about Christ, see the question about that in this series).
Prior to this mental illness or this spiritual attack, did this person have a genuine relationship with God through Christ? That is the key issue.
The fact of their suicide can be a red herring. They departed this earth in a way we wished hadn't happened and we may think they made a bad, wrong decision. But, as we've said above, people - good Christian people - make bad, wrong decisions and don't go to hell. They receive forgiveness through the mercy and grace of God, through what Christ did on the Cross.
Would this person have taken their life if they had been in their right mind? No!
Were they in control of themselves? To all intents and purposes, no!
Could this person have a relationship with God through Jesus and still commit suicide? Yes. Christians do wrong things all the time and no one doubts their salvation, only their need to repent. It's just a matter of degree.
But doesn't the Bible distinguish between degrees of sin? Yes and no. All sin is sin; some sins lead to death. Someone who was promiscuous might now have AIDS. Their life is being shortened because of their sin. They become a Christian. Do they get healed? Sometimes, sometimes not.
Because they leave this life early, are they prevented from going to heaven? No, they were still a Christian and the work of Christ on the Cross still applies.
How do we summarise this? The act of suicide is a wrong act (which we would have prevented if we could) which has led to their terminating their life, but the crucial question was whether they had a relationship with God as we've described above.
Don't go on the lack of signs of that relationship at the time of their suicide. You don't know if they weren't crying out to God in their desperation as they did it.
If they were a Christian, weep for them, and determine to do all you can to prevent others getting to that state of desperation.
If they weren't a Christian, weep that, like many others, they died without knowing Christ.