Three years ago, a dear friend of mine and his mother were murdered by his father, who then killed himself. If he was a Christian before he committed these horrendous acts, will he be in heaven and how do I learn to forgive him. It still breaks my heart to think about it.
Let’s start with the easy part. You don’t “learn” to forgive, you just do it. It is an act of obedience and trust in God. We don’t have to reach a point where we feel like it, understand it, or think we are “ready”. We just do it. Forgiveness is an act of obedience first and foremost. The benefits of forgiveness, even the understanding, will come as a result. Just do it.
Now, let’s answer the question about “who is going to hell?”, regardless of how they die. Every person who has rejected God and not had their sin paid for and washed away by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ by responding in repentance and obedience, will be separated from God for all eternity in a place God has reserved for just this purpose (hell).
So the question about suicide is two separate issues. First, if a person commits suicide and has never responded to the Gospel, yes, tragically, they will spend an eternity apart from God. Now we come to heart of the matter. Will a person, who has professed and obeyed Christ, yet chosen suicide, still go to heaven?
I’ll give you my final summary answer first: I DON’T KNOW. Sorry, to disappoint.
I would consider that to be God’s territory Who is the Perfect Judge of man’s heart; and only He can know the actual eternal destiny of that (or any) person.
Some things to consider:
There are those who say that suicide is “self-murder” and that no person who dies by committing a sin (suicide) will enter heaven because sin cannot be in God’s presence.
While there is no doubt that some times, maybe even most times, suicide most certainly is a selfish, destructive act contrary to God’s will, can it be said that this is 100% the case? Are there not times when a person in the midst of severe emotional distress can succumb to the temptation of suicide in the same way that others succumb to other types of temptations?
It’s easy to be dogmatic about it until you start putting yourself in their shoes. What about the Christian on the top floor of the World Trade Center facing the decision to be burned to death, or jump? What about the persecuted Christians who chose suicide (or to put to death their kids and family – murder?) rather than facing horrible torture? What about a Christian who, in the face of some unspeakable horror, took their own life in a moment of unbearable agony and emotional despair?
Some would simplistically say “well, that’s very sad, but sorry, that’s just the way it is; they will go to hell” because they “died in sin”. This comes from the idea that if you die with ONE sin “unforgiven” you will not go to heaven, which stems from the idea that your sins are forgiven chronologically upon repentance and not all at once at the time salvation is granted.
In one sense this is accurate because you canNOT go to heaven with “one sin”, but the issue is when and how your sins are forgiven. I’ve heard it said that if someones commits suicide, they couldn’t possibly have been “saved” in the first place. I’ve heard others take a very casual approach that as long as someone has “accepted Jesus” that suicide is just another sin which has already been forgiven.
All of these dogmatic or simplistic positions demonstrate a lack of thought about a very complicated issue. So let me close with two things to think about….
One, it is easily demonstrated that there are indeed extraordinary circumstances (ie, Sept 11) where a true Christian could arguably be pushed to the choice of suicide. Can you dogmatically state for a fact that person is on their way to hell and support it Scripturally?
Second, as a general rule, true Christians will not readily or easily turn to suicide as the answer because God’s children are not without hope like the world. (1 Thessalonians 4:13; hopelessness and selfishness being the typical essence of suicide) So can you dogmatically state that everyone who has “accepted Jesus” is going straight to heaven even when suicide was their choice to start the trip?
Let me finish where I started…. can a person commit suicide and still be saved? I DON’T KNOW. I consider that to be God’s territory Who is the Perfect Judge of man’s heart; and only He can know the actual eternal destiny of that person.