IF YOU COMMIT SUICIDE AS CHRISTIAN WILL YOU GO TO HEAVEN?
When an individual commits suicide, it’s a tragedy that devastates the individual’s family and the community. In such times, people usually look to the Church for consolation and guidance. But when an individual thinks about death, punishment, hell, and Heaven, vigilance needs to be taken. The truth is complex here. “If an individual commits suicide, will they go to heaven?” is a question that doesn’t have a yes or no answer for us here and now.
Before suicide is discussed explicitly, we should be reminded of what happens to us after we die. As the Catechism explains, death brings an end to human life here on earth, and it opens a pathway to either be rejected or accepted into the divine grace manifested in Christ. Our choice for or against God is fixed. It is seen in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
When we die, we instantly face what is considered our “particular judgment.” We are judged individually by Jesus and rewarded with either the entrance into Heaven or the lake of fire. We must be perfect before we can enter Heaven, free from even the slightest of sins. “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth” (Revelation 21:27). So if we are perfect when we die, we shall immediately enter into the joys of Heaven.
On the other hand, if we die with imperfections on our hearts, such as the guilt of venial sins, we must be cleansed here on earth before we reach Heaven. It occurs in a state called “purgatory,” where our flaws are “purged” in an uncomfortable yet optimistic cycle that often leads to Heaven. In reality, our prayers will hasten the cycle of purification of our souls. This is why prayers are said for the dead at every Mass and the priests give Masses for the dead.
However, when one dies having committed mortal sin without repenting, normally by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they will find themselves justly sentenced to Hell. The very word “mortal sin” tells us that this kind of sin is very dangerous. In order for sin to be “mortal,” three requirements must be met: first, sin must be a grave or severe matter; second, sin must be committed with the knowledge of its seriousness, and, finally, sin must be committed freely.
Let us add those conditions to the sin of suicide. As the Catechism states, We are servants, not owners of the life that God has entrusted to us. It isn’t ours to dispose of it. It’s a very serious matter to take a life. It definitely satisfies the first condition of mortal sin. In almost every case, the second condition is also met. A person instinctively knows that he or she is supposed to protect his or her life, and not to put an end to it deliberately.
Nonetheless, the third condition is not so clear. If anyone wants to bring an end to their life, how openly do they act? Only God generally knows, so he takes all the situations into account when assessing blame. When a person’s judgment was affected by depression or drugs, for example, God would understand that there was a lack of freedom to choose, that the sin in that case may not have been mortal, that the person did not deserve damnation for it. Again, from the Catechism: “Great psychological disturbances, anxiety, or severe fear of hardship, pain, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the individual who is committing suicide. We shouldn’t despair the eternal redemption of those who have taken their own lives. Through ways known to Him alone, God will provide an opportunity for redemption through repentance. The Church prays for those who have taken their own lives.
When someone commits suicide, are they going to Heaven? It depends on the person, and only God knows the answer. Yet one thing is certain: there’s always hope that the answer is yes. So we pray for them. If they are in purgatory, may their path to Heaven be swift.
WHY CAN WE HAVE CONFIDENCE WE CAN GO TO HEAVEN IF YOU COMMIT SUICIDE?
1. GOD OFFERS US HEAVEN AND REDEMPTION OF SIN, EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SINNERS.
Through Adam, sin has reached the world, and every soul after Adam sinned (Rom. 5:12). The Bible states that there is no one righteous — absolutely no one (Rom. 3:10-12). When Adam sinned, he violated the law of God (Gen. 2:3). God revealed to him what would happen if he had chosen to eat one of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. But when faced with temptation, both Adam and Eve fell into the tempter’s snare by eating the fruit. At that moment, the Bible states that their eyes were opened. They were sinners and deserved the punishment that God had promised.
However, given what they deserved, God came to the Garden and provided them with a covering (Gen. 3:21). As the Bible unfolds, God institutes a program of sacrifices that looked forward to the final sacrifice to come, which was Jesus. Jesus died on the cross — crucified — to give salvation and forgiveness to anyone who readily comes to God and asks for it (Rom. 5:6-11). God poured out His rage on Jesus Christ for the sins of mankind in such a way that Jesus paid for the sins of mankind (1 John 2:2).
Therefore, if a person comes to God and asks for forgiveness of sins, God grants the request and forgives them. The gift of salvation comes from God, not from man. In reality, the offer of redemption comes from God exactly because we are sinners.
2. BECAUSE REDEMPTION IS NOT WON, IT IS A GIFT FROM GOD DESPITE OUR SINS.
No one can earn salvation. While some suggest that some humans are saints and others are sinners, these two theories are not true (1 John 1:8-10). Everyone is a sinner and deserves punishment as such. Regardless of who you are, you deserve to go to Hell because of your sin. This is true of you, of me, and of all the others who live. We are sinners, and we sin.
Despite our sinful condition, God still offers us redemption. Anyone can be saved if he or she asks God for the forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. This is the wonderful news of the Gospel (Rom. 5:18-19). Consider the following two important factors:
First, the forgiveness of sins comes only through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). Salvation and remission of sins come solely from Christ (Rom. 5:1–2; 2 Cor. 5:21). God has sent Jesus into the world to pay the penalty for the sin of mankind so that whoever puts his trust in Jesus for eternal salvation can be saved (John 3:15-17). Refusing to confess to God as a repentant sinner and pray for salvation means everlasting death and punishment for refusing to believe in Christ (John 3:18).
Second, the forgiveness of sins is not earned; it is a gift from God. Paul explained salvation to us (Eph 2:1-10). His explanation enables us to understand our inability to earn salvation. As sinners, we are all spiritually dead and deserve the wrath of God (Eph 2:1-3). Yet God, in His incredible love, gives us forgiveness for our sins (Eph. 2:4-7). We also use the words of mercy and grace to explain it. Mercy means that God decides not to punish us as we deserve; He saves us from judgment. Grace means that God blesses us, given that we do not deserve it, but He extends His kindness to us.
Note the two key verses of Paul’s explanation:
“ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
Here Paul asserts that your redemption is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ. Your redemption is not your work; it is the gift of God. You don’t earn it. You can’t earn it.
3. BECAUSE GOD KEEPS US SAVED, WE DON’T KEEP OURSELVES SAVED.
The third reason you can go to Heaven after you commit suicide is if you are saved, and God keeps you alive; we don’t keep ourselves saved. You received salvation as a gift from God when you asked God through Jesus to forgive your sins — despite what you deserved as a sinner. God gives salvation to sinners. He protects your salvation, too. Consider the following four important passages:
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phil. 1:6)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:3–5)
“ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27–30)
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)
In summary, God is the one that keeps us saved. You do not keep yourself saved. God saves you; He keeps you saved. Your confidence in your salvation flows out of your confidence in the offer of the salvation of God. You didn’t earn it; you don’t own it.
THEREFORE, WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE THAT YOU WILL GO TO HEAVEN IF YOU COMMIT SUICIDE?
1. SINCE GOD GIVES US HEAVEN AND REDEMPTION OF SIN AS PEOPLE, EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SINNERS: God saves sinners; suicide is just a sin. Suicide reveals what God and everyone else knew all along — this individual was a sinner. But thankfully, these are the kind of people that God saves.
2. SALVATION IS NOT WON; IT IS A GIFT FROM GOD DESPITE OUR SINS: God offers remission of sin or salvation to those who pray for it through God’s grace and mercy. Salvation is not to be received. If salvation is up to us, there is no hope. You didn’t earn it by works. You can’t lose it in your works. Salvation, despite your sin, is the gift of God. Suicide is not the exception — it is still a sin for which God offers forgiveness.
3. GOD KEEPS US ALIVE; WE DON’T KEEP OURSELVES SAVED: Salvation is founded on God’s faithfulness, not the faithfulness of a person. God is faithful. We can be assured, as Paul said, because our faith is in God, not in ourselves. God protects us and keeps us in His salvation because none of us could ever do that.
For the saved person, his or her trust resides in God through Christ, by the Holy Spirit’s power, not in earning, deserving, or preserving salvation by his or her merit. And God is trustworthy.
IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING SUICIDE
If you are contemplating suicide, I implore you to get help. Speak to a trusted friend you can count on. God cares for you. People care for you. Two of the biggest mistakes that those who contemplate suicide make are that they think:
(1) No one cares if they kill themselves
(2) Everyone would be better off without them.
If you’re considering suicide, I always refer to this kind of thought as a cul-de-sac. In your mind, you’ve pulled into a theological cul-de-sac where you believe there’s no other way to out but to end your life. However, this is not true. Again, I urge you to speak to a trusted friend; contact that person immediately instead of waiting.