After recently reading my original blog, Suicide and the Bible, a reader kindly asked a common question:
I was reading your “Suicide and the Bible”..and I just have a question. I’m genuinely curious to know what you think about this. So you’re saying nowhere in the Bible does it say suicide will send you to hell. You did call it murder (of yourself) however, which is sin. We are supposed to ask for forgiveness for all of our sins, so what if someone commits this “murder.” And dies instantly and didn’t get the chance to ask for forgiveness?
Their question actually concerns an entirely different doctrine of the Christian faith than the topic at hand.
Before I jump in to this question, isn’t it curious that some people almost sound as if they are working as hard as they can to keep a certain demographic of people (those who die by suicide) out of heaven? Even though the idea is contrary to scripture. What if we decided gossip or lust or taking God’s name in vain were the sins that, if unconfessed, would prevent us from going to heaven? Heaven would be a sparsely-populated place.
I addressed this at length in Part 1 of this blog, but allow me, once again, to address this question head-on by, hopefully, offering clarity from the testimony of scripture:
Fortunately, the Gospel makes it crystal clear that, at the moment we profess our faith in Christ, we are redeemed, purchased by Christ’s blood, and seen, in God’s eyes, as 100% righteous and holy (2 Cor 5:17, 21). This means that, regardless of what manner we leave this life, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ i.e. a person who took their own life arrives in heaven just as someone who died of natural causes. In short, as I stated in Part 1 of this blog,
…one’s eternal destiny, according to the Bible, doesn’t have a single thing to do with how we get there. Rather, it has everything to do with the condition of our soul when we arrive.
Consider the dying thief.
Luke not once records the thief, after professing his faith in Christ, reciting a list of a lifetime sins. As far as Jesus was concerned, the thief’s repentant heart was enough. Jesus authenticated the thief being wiped clean of all sin (including un-confessed) by telling him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
1 John 1:9
John, the eye-witness and disciple of Jesus, wrote,
“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
There are those who would interpret this passage woodenly and legalistically, apart from the greater context of the New Testament, as John referring to a requirement for confessing every individual sin we’ve ever committed before we’re admitted into heaven. Clearly, the account above of the thief on the cross, as well as the rest of the New Testament does not support that interpretation.
I agree with theologian, John MacArthur (and a host of others), who, commenting on this passage, writes,
“Rather than focusing on confession of every single sin as necessary [for our right standing in God’s sight], John has especially in mind here a [single] settled recognition and acknowledgement that one is a sinner in need of cleansing and forgiveness.”
In short, according to the testimony of scripture itself, we are, at the moment we profess our faith in Christ, forgiven of all sin that would keep us from heaven and spending eternity in the presence of Christ.
Then why are we taught to confess our sin even after we’ve professed our faith in Christ?
“Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. The word ‘confess’ means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge his perspective about sin.”
So, when we rebel against God (not merely what we consider heinous crimes like murder, theft, assault, etc., but also sexually impure thoughts, profane language, unforgiveness, anger behind the wheel of our car, gossip, lying (which includes “white lies”), lust, laziness, etc., it is spiritually healthy to come before God to confess/agree that such sin grieves him and hurts us, allowing his love and conviction to renew our minds and, hopefully, help us to focus on God’s Word, removing whatever sin is preventing us from experiencing spiritual growth.
The Real Question Behind the Question
Can a child of God lose their salvation?
Clearly, the Scriptures state we cannot.
What a wretched existence that would be – always wondering if you’ve checked off all the boxes required to be right in God’s sight i.e. have I prayed enough? Have I read my Bible enough? Did I memorize enough scripture? Do I sincerely love everyone I’ve ever met? Have I forgiven everyone whose ever hurt me? Do I genuinely love my enemies? Have I cared enough for widows and orphans? Have I singled out every little negative or impure thought I’ve ever thought? The list goes on and on. You spend your entire life never knowing if you’re good enough. This is called legalism, which is backbreaking spiritual bondage. It’s what the entire New Testament, especially the gospels, Romans and Galatians address.
Here’s what’s true: none of us are “good enough.”
This is the very reason for the gospel and why “gospel” means “good news.”
Paul put it this way:
Not a single person is righteous (meaning we are doomed to hell)… But, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Faith in Christ’s death and resurrection makes us “good enough.” In other words, it’s Christ goodness – not ours – that makes peace between us and a holy Judge so that, when we stand before that Judge, the verdict he hands down is “not guilty.” Paul, from prison, wrote:
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Further, Paul describes our salvation as a gift:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
A gift is something we receive, not earn (by checking off boxes of human morality.) And since we did nothing in our power to earn it (Christ, alone, earned it for us on the cross) there is nothing we can do to un-earn it, or lose it.
You will find no list of sins in the Bible that causes us to lose what was purchased for us by Christ’s blood on the cross.
This includes the sin of un-confessed daily sin.
The Unpardonable Sin
Jesus, in a debate with the religious leaders, warned,
And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
First of all – and I don’t know how much clearer Jesus can make it – murder is not the unpardonable sin.
Second, the only sin that can/will send a person to hell is one’s willful, deliberate, conscious rejection of God and his offer of redemption and salvation through his son, Christ Jesus. That person is, in essence, saying,
“There is no God. I don’t need saving. God, if he even exists, is a liar. The gospel is a joke, a fairy tale.”
This – and only this – , according to the Bible, dooms one to eternal punishment.
You Must be Born Again
To help drive home the doctrine of a Christian’s eternal security, Jesus uses the phrase, “born again”, to give us insight into this miracle called eternal life. It is significant that Jesus chooses to use this particular phrase.
Consider this: regardless of how badly we may treat our parents, we can never not be their child. In other words, we can never be “un-born” as their children. Likewise, we can never be “un-born again” as a child of God. Our position in Christ is based on God, not us. And our heavenly Father’s grip on us is eternal; it can’t be undone. (An un-confessed sin at our death holds no power over our eternal security in Christ.)
A Weak View of the Cross of Christ
To assert that failing to confess a sin all of a sudden removes one’s imputed righteousness through Christ completely nullifies what Christ did on the cross. Simply put, this idea is heresy.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross either saves us for eternity, or it doesn’t. We can’t have it both ways.
Jesus spoke often of our security in Christ. In John 10 where, speaking of “his sheep” (those who have, at some point in their life, professed their faith in him), he says,
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Our eternity in heaven with God is as secure as God’s Word is sure.
The Logical Problem with Having to Confess Every Single Sin
Lastly, I am 100% confident that, when I breathe my last – whether it is by natural causes, or prematurely and unexpectedly – I will not have confessed every single sin I have ever committed in my screwed-up life.
And I’m fairly certain this applies to every other Christian on planet earth as well.
Consider yelling hatefully at your spouse or parent or child as you walk out the door one morning and shortly thereafter die in an auto accident – without confessing your hateful comments from a few minute earlier. Would this send you to hell? Of course, not. The Cross is infinitely stronger than that. (And aren’t you glad that it is?)
Thank God Almighty that, like Paul, we can confidently say,
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…”
The Disease of Mental Illness
Moving from the theological to the practical, a brief word:
There is another side of this issue that is not often enough addressed. That’s the issue of a medically diagnosed Mental Illness (a genuine misfiring of the brain’s chemical make-up; a form of insanity.) Information and data about the disease of Mental Illness is readily available from many reputable web sites such as the Mayo Clinic, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
When someone dies of cancer, we never question that as sinful i.e. it wasn’t their fault they contracted cancer. Yet, there is a stigma attached to a person dying with a medically diagnosed Mental Illness. A person posted the following comment to one of my posts:
“From a mental health perspective, depression is an illness. There should be no stigma attached to death from any illness. “
The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide. However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.
This would mean they ultimately died of a disease. This can be debatable. But it’s definitely worth mentioning and deserves serious discussion.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick
FYI – I included the following at the beginning of my original blog, Suicide and the Bible. I include it here again.
NOTE: If you have been, or are, suicidal, please do not misconstrue my intent here by interpreting this blog as it being ok to take your life since the Bible clearly says, if you’ve professed your faith in Christ, you will go to heaven. Suicide is never the answer to one’s problems. I know from personal experience the devastation suicide has on a family and friends. If you are depressed and/or suicidal, get help immediately. Talk to someone – anyone. Help and hope are available in abundance. (Click here for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.) The sole purpose of this blog is to give peace to those of us who have been forced to live through this horrific tragedy.