What does the Bible say about suicide – Part 1

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Wisdom4Today with Dr. Mike

Christians have a variety of opinions about what happens to a person who commits suicide. However, if you were to ask, most Christians believe that a person who commits suicide will go to Hell. As always, we need to examine what the Bible teaches to get a clear answer.

Suicide is not a topic that lacks any mention in the Bible. There are several instances where people have committed suicide. The first person mentioned that committed suicide was King Saul, the first King of Israel. We can read of his suicide in 1 Samuel 31:1-6.

(1 Samuel 31:1-6 KJV)  “Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa. (2) And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchishua, Saul’s sons. (3) And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers. (4) Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. (5) And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him. (6) So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.”

The first thing that needs to be asked is if Saul was saved. A look at Saul’s salvation experience can be found in 1 Samuel 9:26-10:27 as follows:

(1 Samuel 9:26-27 KJV)  “And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad. (27) And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may show thee the word of God.”  (1 Samuel 10 KJV)  “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? (2) When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? (3) Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: (4) And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. (5) After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: (6) And the spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. (7) And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. (8) And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do. (9) And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. (10) And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. (11) And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? (12) And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? (13) And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place. (14) And Saul’s uncle said unto him and to his servant, Whither went ye? And he said, To seek the asses: and when we saw that they were no where, we came to Samuel. (15) And Saul’s uncle said, Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you. (16) And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not. (17) And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh; (18) And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: (19) And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands. (20) And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. (21) When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found. (22) Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff. (23) And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. (24) And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king. (25) Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. (26) And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. (27) But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.”

Of particular note is the fact that in 1 Samuel 10:5-7, Samuel told Saul that a group of prophets would preach to him; that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him and that he would “become another man.” Becoming another man or a new man is consistent with Ephesians 4:24, which describes the change that happens in a new believer (See also 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 3:9-10).

That very day, Samuel’s prophesy of Saul was fulfilled (1 Samuel 10:9-10). The most telling thing we see about this experience is that as soon as Saul heard this from Samuel “God gave him a new heart,” meaning Saul was saved (1 Samuel 10:9). The idea of receiving a new heart at salvation is also seen in Ezekiel 18:31 and Ezekiel 36:26. Likewise, others witnessed the change in Saul when they heard and saw that he prophesied among the other prophets (1 Samuel 10:11).

Although we do not know exactly what Saul was told by Samuel or the other prophets, we do know that they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to him. We know this because Acts 10:43 tells us that all the prophets preached the Gospel of salvation through Christ as follows:

(Acts 10:43 KJV)  “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

So, as we can see, Saul was saved. The next question that needs to be asked is if Saul lost his salvation. First we must have a clear understanding of what happens when someone is saved. The following is an overview of this with additional references as follows:

Salvation is a gift of God, available to every person, by grace through a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Salvation was made possible by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who made a full and vicarious atonement for our sin, providing redemption from the curse of the law. This justification of the sinner through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, when personally received by faith, results in salvation or being “born again.” The new birth (regeneration) results in a new creature (transformation) in Jesus Christ that is instantaneous and not a process. In the new birth, the one dead in trespasses and sins responds to the gospel according to the scriptures, and is imparted a new nature and spiritual life not previously possessed, is forgiven of sin, and is given eternal life solely by the power of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is totally apart from any effort of man such as good works, baptism, or church membership. Proper evidences of salvation are repentance, faith, and newness of life, as well as the evidence of the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance).

A true believer is eternally secure. He cannot lose his salvation, but sin in his life may interrupt the joy of his fellowship with God, the loss of confidence in his assurance of salvation, and bring the loving discipline of his Heavenly Father. Scriptural references are as follows: (Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 4:30;  John 6:27; John 10:27-29; John 17:11; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Hebrews 13:5; 2 Timothy 2:19; Romans 4:11; Romans 8:12; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:14;Jude 1:24;  Ecclesiastes 8:8; Isaiah 45:17)

See also : HeavenWhat makes someone a Christian?

Simply stated, Saul did not lose his salvation. Evidence of this is also seen in the fact that Samuel told Saul that he and his sons would be with him after they were dead (1 Samuel 28:19). This brings up another event in Saul’s demise; his consulting of a witch for advice, which was one of the reasons Saul’s life would end tragically. A quick look at Saul’s life after salvation is needed to help us to understand how he went from a man on fire for God after his salvation to committing suicide.

To begin, Saul was chosen by God to be Israel’s first king after the Israelites became concerned that Samuel was getting old and his two sons, who would replace Samuel, were corrupt (1 Samuel 7-8). The Israelites complained to Samuel that they wanted a king like all the other nations had to rule over them. Samuel took this as a rejection of his leadership as a priest and prophet, but after speaking with God about the issue, God told him that the people were not rejecting Samuel, they were rejecting God.

After warning the people of how having a king would result in less freedom, the people insisted and God told Samuel to grant their request. Saul was chosen by God and installed as their king (1 Samuel 9-10). Saul assumed the duties of a king and honored God when he began his reign. Also during this time, Samuel gathered the people together along with King Saul and preached a warning not to disobey God. With time, however, Saul did just that, he disobeyed God, which initially led to God taking away Saul’s kingdom.

Saul did three things that led to God deciding to take the kingdom away from him. Saul offered a sacrifice that only a priest was allowed to perform (1 Samuel 13:9). He unjustly ordered the death of his son Jonathan, but the people refused to carry out the order (1 Samuel 14). And finally, he ignored God’s command to destroy a wicked pagan named Agag (1 Samuel 15-16:1). After this, God told Samuel he was going to take away Saul’s kingdom.

While Samuel was mourning for Saul, God told him to stop mourning, fill his horn with oil, and go to Bethlehem to anoint a new king. Upon arriving there, he was led by God to anoint David as king (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Immediately after this happened, God sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul who was physically still on the throne (1 Samuel 16:14-23). Saul’s servants recommended that he call for someone to play music to comfort Saul. The person that they called was David. When the troubling spirit from the Lord tormented Saul, David played songs with lyrics we know later as Psalms and the evil spirit departed from Saul. Because of this relationship, Saul became very close to David, and Saul’s son Jonathan did as well.

Despite this new found friendship with David, Saul was still destined to lose his throne. Likewise, Saul became more demonically influenced and his behaviors became more evil. In time, Saul became jealous of David, because when David killed the giant Goliath, the people sang songs about David’s bravery. This led to Saul beginning a campaign to kill David. Saul and his men began chasing David through the countryside, but eventually, the kingdom was attacked by Philistines so he broke off his pursuit of David and went to fight the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:27-28).

Not long after, Saul returned to pursue David again and there came a time where David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but he was afraid of killing Saul, because Saul had been made king by God. Instead, David secretly cut off the bottom of Saul’s robe while Saul was taking shelter in a cave. David became convicted that what he did to Saul was wrong so he revealed himself to Saul. As David spoke to Saul, Saul realized that David could have killed him, but didn’t. This led to Saul to realize that God had spared his life, so he made peace with David (1 Samuel 24). Saul also admitting that he now realized David would be the new king. Saul asked David if he would spare Saul’s family when David became king and David agreed, so Saul left

Not long after, Samuel died. After a series of events, Saul, once again went after David. Again, David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but like before, did not carry through with it because Saul was God’s chosen king. Again, David revealed himself after passing up an opportunity to kill Saul, and when confronted, Saul admitted his sin and they both went their separate ways. After David and Saul departed from one another again, it was not long after that the Philistines attacked the kingdom of Israel again. Only this time, Samuel was dead, and David had befriended the Philistines by fighting and destroying some of their enemies.

With Samuel being dead (1 Samuel 25:1) and David not available to help Saul, Saul had no one to give him Godly counsel. Saul was afraid that the Philistines were massing to attack and God was not answering him as to what he should do (1 Samuel 28:6). Therefore, Saul decided that he would consult a witch with a “familiar spirit” for advice (1 Samuel 28:7-10). Saul asked the witch to call Samuel up from the dead to get his advice about what to do. This was a clear violation of Deuteronomy 18:10-12, but by this point Saul was well outside where God wanted him to be.

To the witch’s terrified surprise, God allowed the Spirit of Samuel to appear and speak with Saul. Samuel challenged Saul as to why he was calling for him. Saul explained his predicament and the spirit replied that because of Saul’s rebellion, Israel would lose to the Philistines and Saul and his sons would die. Samuel revealed their impending death by telling Saul that he and his sons would soon be with Samuel, who was dead (1 Samuel 28: 18).  Afterwards, the witch prepared a meal, which Saul and his advisers  ate and departed for war.

As told by the Samuel, the things that were told to Saul did come to pass. However, his death was not a result of dying in battle, but because he committed suicide (as did his armorbearer) as a final act of desperation in the face of capture by the Philistines. Likewise, since we know that Saul had been told that he would be with Samuel after he died, we can know that Saul, was not in the torment of Hell, he was in paradise with Samuel. So, what we learn from this is that a believer who commits suicide does not go to Hell.

To reinforce this, we have to understand that suicide, according to the law, is murder: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Jesus made a comparison of murder to anger without a cause in Matthew 5:21-22. In His comparison, Jesus is taught that anger toward our brother without a cause in our heart is comparable to actual murder. He went on to make the same analogy in Matthew 5:27-28 when He compared looking upon a woman with lust with adultery. This is because God judges the heart that produces the sinful behaviors. In other words, sin is sin even if you only harbor it in your heart (Genesis 4:5-7; Psalms 28:3; Proverbs 20:9; Proverbs 21:2; Mark 3:5; Luke 16:15; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:12; James 4:8).

This being said, we are told that anything that is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Like Paul, we are all chiefs of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Every day, if every sin were to be written down that we commit and it were held against us, we would die and be on our way to Hell before we even have breakfast. The Apostle Paul confessed his struggle with sin on a daily basis (Romans 7:14-24), and we must be honest with ourselves and admit the same.

Another point for consideration is that if the act of murder (suicide) would send a believer to Hell, so would breaking of any other commandment. This is because the Bible says that if you break one law, you are guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10). This is because God sees all sin, not matter how great or small in our eyes as worthy of death in God’s eyes (Romans 6:23). However, when we trust Christ as our Savior, we are no longer under the penalty of the law (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:23-25; Galatians 5:18; ) because Jesus paid our penalty for our sins, past present and future.

Does mean then that we can not sin at will just because we are under God’s grace, which delivered us from the penalty of the law (Romans 6:14-16)? Absolutely not! As believers, we have to understand that God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If we chose to continually live in rebellious disobedience to God, God will only tolerate it so long and may decide to end our mortal life as he did Saul. This is seen in the example of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5:1-10, who lied to the Holy Spirit about a donation they had made to the church.

God taking our mortal life as believers is called a “sin unto death.” Mention of this is seen in the following verses:

(Romans 6:15-16 KJV)  “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (16) Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

(James 1:14-15 KJV)  “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

(1 John 5:16-17 KJV)  “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. (17) All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.”

These verses teach us that all sin, “when it is finished”, leads to death. As a non-believer, this means physical death and going to Hell. As believers, we may think that we will get away with sin for a while, but we never know where God will draw the line and end our mortal life, so we should not even go down that road. If we think about it, if we call ourselves Christians or children of God, how long do you think God is going to allow us to profane his name before others? When we profess to be believers and then live for the Devil, it brings shame to God’s name and leads others to not want to have anything to do with God. (Click to Continue to Part 2)

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Dr. Michael L. Williams

Dr. Michael Williams is a pastor, author, Christian educator and Biblical counselor who has served in ministry since March of 2000. Dr. Mike holds under-graduate through post graduate degrees in Christian Education. Dr. Mike is the Senior Pastor of Selah Mountain Ministries, which he founded in March of 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (selahmountain.org). In addition to counseling, he teaches how to overcome life issues Biblically on topics such as anger management, marriage, addictions, and other subjects typically referred to as mental illnesses. Dr. Mike lives with his wife Pamela Rose and adult daughter Hollie Rose. He and Pamela have other adult children and several grandchildren as well. Learn more about Dr. Mike at his personal ministry web site Wisdom4Today.