Suicide & Survivors

I remember the moment exactly; it was a peaceful Saturday morning. My wife walked into our bathroom and said, “The paramedics called, and they need you.” A young man I knew ended his life, while his young girlfriend was in the room, and she wouldn’t speak to anyone but me.

Instantly, a family was in crisis, friends and classmates were shocked, and we were thrown into confusion. Why did this happen? Were there any warning signs? Was he depressed? Questions flooded my mind as I drove to meet with this young girl. As we sat down to talk, she went over every scene with me, describing in graphic detail this young man’s last moments.

Over the next few days I spent time with this young man’s family, and I met with many of his friends and classmates and to my surprise the question they wanted answered more than anything else was, ‘What do the Scriptures say about it? What happens to someone who commits suicide?’ Let’s examine these important questions.

What do the Scriptures say about suicide?

Suicide is not an easy issue to discuss. However, it needs to be addressed especially when considering on average, one person in the United States kills himself or herself every 11 minutes, over 47,500 per year.[1] Additionally in the United States, there is one suicide attempt every 26.6 seconds.[2] Each suicide leaves behind an average of 6 survivors—husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings and other close family and friends. Each and every year over 280,000 people, more than the population of Jackson County, are coping with the loss of a loved one who has ended their life.[3]

To be sure suicide is a serious sin because it goes against the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Suicide is murder of oneself. The commandment not to murder is built upon the fact that humans are created in God’s image and we are to reflect God’s character, and the God of the Scriptures is a life-giving God (Gen.1:26). Therefore, suicide is wrong. Like all other sins, suicide makes us legally guilty before God, and yet some sins are worse than others because of the degrees of devastation that they bring into our lives and into the lives of others. Also some sins cause God more displeasure than others. This would be especially true of suicide because it is a repudiation and rejection of God’s good gift of life.

Suicide has always been radical disobedience to our Creator-God. Satan would love nothing more than to have God commit suicide (Matthew 4:5), yet he couldn’t get him to do it, so now he does the next best thing and tries to get God’s image bearers, human beings to commit suicide and for this reason is it a particularly serious sin.

Dr. Wayne Grudem (a well-known theologian) states, “The distinction between degrees of seriousness of sin does not imply an endorsement of the Roman Catholic teaching that sins can be put into two categories of “venial” and “mortal.” In Roman Catholic teaching, a venial sin can be forgiven, but often after punishments in this life or in Purgatory (after death, but before entrance into heaven). A mortal sin (they say suicide is a mortal sin) is a sin that causes spiritual death and cannot be forgiven; it excludes people from the Kingdom of God.”[4]

Within the pages of the Old Testament we find several occurrences of suicide recorded as historical fact.

  • Abimelech (Judges 9:54)
  • Saul (1 Samuel 31:1-6)
  • Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23)
  • Zimri (1 Kings 16:18)
  • Judas (Matt. 27:3-5)

It is telling that in the Scriptures those who committed suicide were not judged simply upon their decision to end their life, but rather on whether they put their faith in God as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures.

Unfortunately, many early Church leaders, in an effort to protect human life, went too far and publicly condemned those who had committed suicide. In the year A.D. 452, the Council of Arles condemned suicide. The Council of Orleans in A.D. 533 asserted that offerings were not allowed for those who committed suicide.[5] Thirty years later, in 563, the Synod of Braga banned the singing of psalms at the funeral of a suicide and said that the body of a suicide could not be brought into the church building as part of the burial ceremony.[6] In 693 the Synod of Toledo barred individuals who had attempted suicide from receiving the Lord’s Supper for two months, during which time they were expected to repent of their sin.[7]

Thankfully, we in the evangelical, protestant tradition has placed more of an emphasis on letting Scripture speak for itself. Again, suicide is radical disobedience against God, however, our salvation has never been based upon our record of obedience, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

What happens to someone who commits suicide?

The main question this young man’s family and friends asked was, ‘What happens to someone who dies by suicide?’ In the New Testament, we read the account of Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:3-5 & Acts 1:18, 24-25), and this one account has caused much confusion for many. Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, realizing he betrayed an innocent man, went off and hanged himself. Later, in the Book of Acts, the physician Luke writes, “Judas left to go where he belongs” and the phrase, “where he belongs” is a euphemism for Hell. Many have taken this passage and deduced that Judas was in Hell because he committed suicide. Judas committed suicide, and he went to Hell, but not because he committed suicide. Judas went to Hell, because he did not believe in Jesus Christ as his Savior (John 6:64 & 70). Judas trusted in himself all along and when he realized he had sinned by betraying Jesus, he punished himself for his sin by killing himself. He never let the Lord be the Lord at any point in their relationship.

Again, suicide is self-murder and a violation of the sixth commandment, but as theologian Dr. John Frame rightly asserts, “Suicide is a sin, but it is not unforgivable.”[8] Frame tells the story of a missionary friend, who upon returning to the States drew closer to Jesus as he battled severe depression. Sadly, this man in the end killed himself but Frame doesn’t hesitate to say that this man was a genuine Christian and Frame has no doubt he’ll see him in heaven.

If a person has placed their trust in the person and the work of Jesus Christ when they pass from this age into the next, no matter how they pass, they will be ushered into the presence of the Lord Jesus, because the Scriptures promise that neither life nor death—not even death by a suicide—“will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).


  1. American Association of Suicidology: AAS Suicide Data Page (based on 2019 statistics), website ( Sadly, each time I update this statistic, the average time goes down and the total number increases.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Pg. 504, Zondervan, 1994
  5. Carl Joseph Hefele, A History of the Coucilsof the Church from the Original Documents, trans. William Clark (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1895), 3:171.
  6. Ibid., 4:187.
  7. Carl Joseph Hefele, Concilien Geschichte (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder”sche Verlags-Handlung, 1873), 3:15.
  8. Frame, John. The Doctrine of the Christian Life. Pg. 739. P&R Publishing. 2008