I have heard my entire life that if one commits suicide they go directly to hell. Is this true? I just can’t recall any specific scripture that answers that question.
Thank you for raising this question. It’s a very sensitive one, of course, as many people are grieving the loss of someone they loved to suicide. In this case, it can add a great deal of pain to say not only have you lost someone you love, but they’re in hell. We need incredible tenderness and care in evaluating this situation. It isn’t a “theoretical” question we can idly debate. Our discussion might affect how people remember their family and friends.
According to a survey conducted by Lifeway Research:
LifeWay’s study found three-quarters (76 percent) of churchgoers say suicide is a problem that needs to be addressed in their community. About a third (32 percent) say a close acquaintance or family member has died by suicide.
I think the short answer is, no, suicide does not send someone to hell.
As you noted, there’s no specific scripture that answers this question.
Some might say that Judas’s death is an example of suicide in Scripture, and we know he was separated from God. But as we read in Luke 22:3 or John 13:17, this is an unusual case where it is revealed to us that Satan had entered into him. So I don’t think we can extrapolate too much from the scenario where one of Jesus’ disciples betrayed him to an ethical standard that applies to every other suicide.
More importantly, we are told that the question of our eternal destiny is unrelated to what sins we do or do not commit. Rather, it is our response to Jesus that is decisive. God has entrusted us with the gift of being his image bearers. We have all responded to God in ways that are distorted and wrong.
In John 14, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In Acts 4:12, the Apostle Peter teaches, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Perhaps most relevant to this discussion is John 11:25-26. Jesus says,
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?
If we are united to Jesus, nothing, not even suicide, can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:31-39).
Another factor is that we want to develop a nuanced understanding of suicide. It doesn’t seem to me that suicide is a willful act of evil, so much as a cry for help, taken in desperation.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
The main risk factors for suicide are:
- A history of suicide attempts
- Depression, other mental disorders, or substance use disorder
- Chronic pain
- Family history of a mental disorder or substance use
- Family history of suicide
- Exposure to family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
- Presence of guns or other firearms in the home
- Having recently been released from prison or jail
- Exposure, either directly or indirectly, to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities
And according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,
Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying — and potentially treatable — mental health condition
The most gracious understanding I can develop for the theological position that suicide sends someone to hell is the belief that if we warn people that the consequences are very negative, this will prevent them from attempting suicide. However, this message seems more likely to distress someone.
In my judgment, a better message would be, God loves you, and I’m here for you too. By contrast, the message of a vengeful God removes access to what could be a supportive resource - our faith, the church, and the Scriptures - during a difficult time.
Finally, it helps to know that, at least in the US, the suicide and crisis lifeline is 988.
Hi @jeni this is so helpful to discuss. As @Carson said, it’s a deeply personal and sensitive topic for people so I think it’s important to address statements that we hear regarding the penalty for suicide. Like you, I’ve never seen a scripture that supports the idea that those who commit suicide go to hell. Likewise, we’re assured that it is faith that saves us and this is a joyful truth we can share with others, particularly those grieving for lost loved ones.
I know what it’s like to support someone who is deeply suicidal which is actually really hard. My own principles that I’ve meditated on is that we are all image bearers of God.
Genesis 1:27 (ESV): 27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Matthew 19:19 (ESV): Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself
We’re told to love our neighbour because they carry God’s image (whether they realise it or not) and I think the same principle applies to oneself. Just as we are to honour others, we are to honour our own bodies. Whilst there are no scriptures really addressing suicide, there are plenty about living up to the standard of holiness that God calls us to. Anytime we treat someone else or ourselves less than our worth, we disobey God’s command to treat our bodies with honour. So as I supported this person through their suicidal times, the only thing I could do was to gently model what it looks like to love oneself and others as best as I was able. Our purpose in life is to enjoy God and glorify him with our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). With suicide, we are actually denying God our living act of sacrificial worship. I think both the denial or our innate worth and the withholding of worship to God are both against our very nature and purpose. Both these denials are meant to be unnatural with creation. Perhaps statements like “people who commit suicide go to hell” are entirely theologically false but point to a deep issue that is relevant and worth considering further.
For those who believe that
this scripture is usually cited,
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
The use of conjunction “but” seem to suggest that the verse is showing contrast.
“Salvation” usually refers to spiritual deliverance. “Death”, therefore, is thought to mean spiritual.
But how did it come to imply the second death? Why can’t it be assumed to mean the mere physical death, (aside from the suggestive contrasting pattern of the sentence construction)?
Because physical death is default for all (except, perhaps, for Enoch, Elijah, and those who will be raptured). Why make a contrast when there is none (since both [the one who suffered godly vs worldly sorrow] will return to dust)?
As God is the author of life, and Satan is the author of death, making self-harm your final act seem to put you in a very questionable spiritual state.
(God, being just might hold the innocence of an infant and the ignorance of the insane to merit the same favor, or bear the same weight.)
1Cor.10:13 promises deliverance from trials.
God-sent sorrow will bring repentance and recovery. Worldly sorrow brings death.
I’m not sure if someone who commits suicide can pray for forgiveness before ending his life. (Probably, after talking to the Author of life, one might change his mind and bounce back. Otherwise, he would hope there is no One he would be answerable to afterwards. But this would oppose the very premise of faith, which is prerequisite to salvation, Heb.11:6)
Praise God, He has allowed me to overcome some suicidal tendencies from my youth. Had I had the belief that I will still go to Heaven after committing suicide since I have been redeemed (and Paul said that to die is gain in Php.1:21b, if taken out of context) I would not be typing in this words right now.
This very thought came into my mind when I struggled if I should pull the trigger (with unloaded gun, by the way, just a dry-run) back in my teenage years. Thankfully I was not convinced that I would remain to be redeemed if I did it. Rather, I questioned the genuineness of my faith.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
“Reprobate” means “not standing the test” in Gk.
This brings us back to 2Cor.7:10.
But deciding the eternal destiny of someone who committed suicide, or anyone else’s eternal destiny for that matter, is not within our limited knowledge to know, much less to judge.
If someone who jumped off a building was able to regain some senses and asked for forgiveness while he’s on free fall 10seconds before impact, either God will hear his prayer (as He did Peter’s when He was about to drown), or grant him a second chance at life.
Wow, thank you for sharing your own struggle with suicidal thoughts. I give God praise that he has helped you to overcome them! Hearing how God’s word motivated you to choose life moves my heart. I am grateful you are here, and we can journey together as brothers in Christ!
With gratitude in my heart, I do want to raise, as gently as I know how, some other perspectives on what you shared.
I appreciate you bringing this verse into the discussion. It’s so helpful to hear how different people read God’s word.
As I sit with your interpretation, I agree, it is possible that the word ‘death’ could mean physical death. In that sense, the verse would read:
Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces physical death.
However, as you’ve noted, everyone will die. Both those who have godly sorrow and those who have worldly grief experience physical death. Therefore, the logical structure of the verse doesn’t make sense if Paul argues that only worldly grief leads to death.
Further, in this passage, the context is that there was unaddressed sin in the Corinthian church. Paul wrote to them and told them they needed to change their approach. The church had to decide whether to respond to that sin with godly or worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow is righteous, and worldly sorrow isn’t, but these are both responses to our sins. That provides another reason to think that ‘worldly sorrow’ is not intended to be interpreted as suicide.
In his commentary on 2 Corinthians, Murray Harris notes, “sorrow borne in a “worldly” way (tou kosmou, GK 3180), on the other hand, does not lead to repentance but has the deadly effect of producing resentment or bitterness.”
This commentary makes sense to me because Paul is addressing the state of their souls. If we sin before God but repent of it, that leads us on the path of salvation. But if we sin before God, and our only grief is how sin has messed up our lives, then we are spiritually dying as we continue moving away from God.
I also appreciate you raising the point about self-harm as being in opposition to God as the author of life.
It’s because God has given us life that we receive this opportunity with gratitude. God made us in his image, so we see each person with dignity as a fellow bearer of God’s image. It’s because each life is immeasurably valuable that we grieve the loss of life, and this grief can be intensified when it happens by suicide. These foundational truths can give us reason for hope even when struggling with heavy depression.
Yet I think even as we acknowledge that taking one’s life is not aligned with God’s good purposes, we do so with compassion. It seems this is not an act of anger, greed, revenge, racism, sexism, or abuse of power. Rather, this is often an act of desperation prompted by an ongoing experience of hopelessness.
For instance, think of an enslaved person who chooses suicide. I would say the responsibility for their death belongs primarily to the enslaver who placed another person in horrific conditions. That’s a severe example, but I raise it to suggest that perhaps we need to look more broadly at the difficult experiences and environments that might lead someone to feel there is no hope. Doing what is wrong to relieve tremendous pain is morally different than doing something out of self-absorbed evil in order to cause pain.
I hear your point. To anyone considering suicide, I would plead with them to remember that God loves us. If they have faith in Christ, I would remind them that Jesus died so they could live - to have a new, divine life within. God has united them to brothers and sisters in Christ. Their faith is a reminder that God has good plans for them. Their life already has purpose, to complete the works that God has for them. And they can overcome their challenges with the help of the Holy Spirit and the support of their friends and church community.
Yet still, I don’t see the warrant for saying that suicide is stronger than Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Why do we single out this decision as putting someone beyond the hope of God, rather than any other number of choices? Even if our life ends in this sad way, does that mean God withdraws his love as well?
I think Psalm 103 provides us with guidance on God’s character. We read, in part,
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.
AMEN AMEN!!! Thank you all for your very insightful comments!
I don’t believe in coincidences, and believe everything happens for a reason, because we are all part of God’s plan.
A couple of reasons why I asked this question.
Several years ago, my Grandma passed away. She had been with my Grandpa since they were teenagers. So they were together forever. After she passed, my Grandpa would drive to visit her daily. He did this for 9 years straight. It came time for him to renew his driver’s license, and he was in his 90’s then. He did not pass, and they actually took his license from him, and told him he was no longer allowed to drive. He drove straight home, went into the house, loaded his shotgun, walked out into the front yard and shot himself in the chest. Of course, the whispers were going on about him going to hell because he took his own life.
I definitely could relate to him wanting to end it all. I attempted suicide myself a few times throughout my younger years. I dealt with depression and it can definitely get the better of me. But, my life has changed so much since then. I own a home, I have a successful job that I absolutely love, I have 3 adorable small fur babies and I love Christ. SO, for the most part, life has been great! Depression is almost nonexistent.
I have been dealing with “bad neighbors” for over 5 years. They moved here, never living in a house before and thought the entire street was their playground. I had repeatedly asked them to stay off of my property. They destroyed 3 sets of yard lights, shattered my glass birdbath, threw rocks at neighboring homes, destroying Amazon packages on door steps, parking in front of my driveway so I had no way to leave, etc. Just ruthless in my opinion. Then they tried to poison my dogs and threatened my life.
Once the poison started showing up in my backyard, I trained my dogs to go on pads, because I feared for them using the backyard at that point. My fur babies also love to sit on perches I made, and sun bathe in front of the windows. Well that has stopped too, and we now live with boards on our windows because if they are open and my babies are sitting there the kids will come out and taunt them.
I apologize for all the sharing but I wanted to explain why I came to a decision when I posted this. The cops have always just slapped them on the hand, if that, and nothing more! I could share more on that, but I don’t want to get off discussion.
I am doing everything I can to try and sell my home and just get away from here. I had refused for a long time since I am a homeowner and they are not. But, I now feel defeated, and am living like a prisoner in my own home. They have also threatened my life, so spending time outside is no longer an option either.
I did get an offer on my home, but trying to find a new place is not happening, and I just don’t want to live like this anymore. I just want to be done. So, my mind started thinking badly. Which is what made me post my question.
I don’t understand how I got here. I love Jesus, and talk to Him daily. I only listen to Christian music, and do my best every day to find favor in our Lord. But this has just got me defeated. I am now mad at myself for the doubt I am feeling right now. I fear I am stuck here forever. I did say if it is God’s will, and I guess when I realized it wasn’t I was ready to throw in the towel. But only if I knew it wouldn’t send me straight to hell.
All of your comments helped me so much! Carson, your final one was the clincher. You said, "To anyone considering suicide, I would plead with them to remember that God loves us. If they have faith in Christ, I would remind them that Jesus died so they could live - to have a new, divine life within. God has united them to brothers and sisters in Christ. Their faith is a reminder that God has good plans for them. Their life already has purpose, to complete the works that God has for them. And they can overcome their challenges with the help of the Holy Spirit and the support of their friends and church community.
I do believe God used this platform to save me from something I could never take back.
Thank you for your faith, your wisdom and your sharing.
My heart goes out to you. You have endured so much loss - your Grandma, and then, suddenly and terribly, your Grandpa. It grieves me that people chose to speak negatively about him for this final act of despair rather than his devotion to his wife and all the other good ways he loved others.
The stress of having such bad neighbors for five years would be very difficult for anyone. The maliciousness of destroying your property, attempting to poison your dogs, and even threatening your life is egregious beyond description. I am also saddened that the police have been so nonchalant about the situation.
Jeni, I know this is a very hard time for you. And, there’s an incredible purpose for your life. God made you for a reason, and he loves you. So there is always hope. This is an important time to reach out to your local support network. I would also encourage you to reach out to https://988lifeline.org, so they can direct you to additional resources. It’s a sign of strength to get help so you can get into a more stable living situation.
I saw your question a few days ago and have been pondering about it. But today as I went through this thread, I rejoice for the timely responses from others. Praise God that you chose to join this community. The words that you have shared boldly yet vulnerably since the day you joined are inspiring. God is already using you to bless many people near and far.
I am very sorry to hear about the losses you have experienced in so many ways. I pray for God’s truth to shine over every lie that can consume our mind amidst hardships and trials. I am praying for hope and strength in Jesus for you.
@jeni I can’t say how sorry I am to read about your situation. What a difficult place to be in when your attempts to protect yourself end up causing more intimidation from those around you.
My psalm reading today is Psalm 54 which I felt might encourage you in your situation. I believe that right now can you can use the words of David to plead as he did with God for deliverance. He cries out
Psalm 54:1–4 (ESV): 1 O God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2 O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
3 For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves. Selah
4 Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
I found verse 6 struck me as I was praying for you:
Psalm 54:6 (ESV): With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
I know you already put God first in your life, and spend time each day with him, but I felt encouraged by this verse that an increase in deliberate worship to God is the right response in this oppressive situation you’re under. That not only are you asking God for deliverance, but you’re giving him all glory, honour, and worship for who he is perhaps even more than you already do. Verse 6 refers to this as a sacrifice which means I think it might sometimes feel very hard to do, especially when being tormented and threatened. In these times it will feel like a great sacrifice to praise God. I’m reminded of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:25 who were also in a prison, just as you feel you are, and they devoted themselves to worship. This was their sacrifice in their imprisonment.
Another layer to this is that the battle isn’t primarily against flesh and blood (although the outworking is), but is a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore prioritising daily intentional worship is your spiritual act in the battle. I believe it will restore hope to you, and help you trust even more deeply that God is your redeemer and is faithful to his children. It will also help to silence the lies of the enemy when he whispers that death is the only way out.
I will be praying for you, sister!
Psalm 27:13–14 (ESV): 13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Hi @jeni ,
I am so encouraged to see your joy and relief. You have received some very good answers so far - I hope and pray that will be be able to keep your self from getting discouraged on this issue again.
May I give you my perspective on suicide, especially in the light of depression.
Depression, either the long-term variety or the sudden type (usually precipitated by a stressful event) is often the precursor to suicidal thoughts and the act of suicide itself. The thing that triggers this is sheer hopelessness. The sense of overwhelming hopelessness leads to a state where the person suffering sees no solution to his problem, no possibility of relief from his profound pain apart from taking away his or her life. This is an illness and the person who is in this state is not in his or her right mind. Just as illnesses like cancer or stroke kill you, depression kills the person through suicide. If death from an illness like cancer is okay, I see no reason why death from depression is a sin. I say this as a person who has suffered the agony of severe depression for many years and who also happens to be a person trained in neuroscience.
So does suicide send you to hell?
I totally agree with that.
In some conversations with well-meaning Christians, these are some objections to the above position.
One objection is that suicide is killing, of your self. My reply would be that we are saved by grace, through faith, not by works, so that no one can boast.… (Ephesians 2:8). Paul is very clear in all his epistles that there is nothing we can do or not do which will save us and bring us into the family of God. We are simply asked to believe in Jesus, and persevere in our faith and love. If that is so how can an act of suicide take me to hell, when it is the work of Christ that saves me from hell?
Another objection is that the person who commits suicide never has the opportunity to repent of his sin and so he goes to hell. My response to that would be - are we ever in a state where we have repented of all our sins? My flesh is sinful, every breath I take is sinful; how then can I repent of every sin before I die. No! It is only the grace of God, and His mercy that sustains me.
Finally, the God I believe in is a just and compassionate God. He is the ultimate judge and I am confident that He will do what is right and just. Who am I to judge the state of someone else’s soul? It is God who justifies, let my words be few.
Unless one goes through the pain and darkness of hopelessness and depression that leads to suicide, it is very difficult to empathise with those who are pushed to this. Stay strong @jeni and nurture your relationship with our Lord. He will continue to reveal Himself to you and fill you with more understanding with time. Be assured that I will be praying for you.
John 14:1 - Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God.