When someone you love and care about takes their own life …
… it is one of the most traumatic and disorienting times you can face. The questions are seemingly endless and unanswerable. The what ifs become breeding grounds for regret, guilt and self-accusation. The recent death of Isaac Hunter has brought all of that and more to the forefront of life at Northland and Summit churches here in Orlando. As a son of Northland’s pastor and a founder of Summit Church, Isaac was known and loved by countless people. Being followers of Christ does not eliminate the grieving we do in times like this, but as Paul says, we do not grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve in the light of the resurrection promised in Christ.
One question that inevitably comes up in a time like this has to do with the state of a person’s soul. It is understandable that people wonder, “Can you still go to heaven if you take your own life?” Let me say clearly and without equivocation that the answer is yes. The Bible is clear that there is only one sin that is unforgivable. In Mark 3:28-29, Jesus says this:
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
His point is clear: Anything we do is forgivable with the exception of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Without getting too deep into what that is, the context of the passage shows that it includes an ongoing denial of the work of the Holy Spirit and saying that such work is actually of the Devil, when you know full well it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Suicide is not even remotely related to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. So the first foundational principle for us to understand is that any action we commit, even suicide, is forgivable. That does not mean it is without ramifications …
The devastation left in the wake of a suicide is mind-numbing. Forgiveness of an action should never be a justification ahead of time for doing something that is wrong and will inflict pain on those left to deal with the wreckage.
People also ask, “How can you be forgiven if you are dead and unable to ask God to forgive you?” The question assumes that forgiveness comes only after we ask God for it. This is true when you first come into a saving relationship of faith in Christ. Repentance, confession of sin and placing one’s trust in Christ for salvation is required for salvation and forgiveness. The mistake people often make is that in order to keep your salvation, or in the least to be forgiven, you must repent and confess and ask forgiveness every time you sin. Although it is extremely important for a follower of Christ to repent of sin and turn back to Christ, it does not cancel your salvation if you fail to do so. People focus on suicide because of the concern that the person had no chance to repent before standing in front of God. But the same can be said for any other sin one commits and fails to repent and ask forgiveness of before they die.
What if you commit some sin and immediately step in front of a bus and are killed before having a chance to repent and ask forgiveness? Are you going to be condemned for all time because of a tragedy of timing? Not according to the Bible. Once you come to saving faith in Christ, you are forgiven. You are forgiven of your past, present and future. Jesus covers you and fills you with His righteousness. That means when the Father looks on you, He sees not your unworthiness and sin, but rather He sees your relationship with the Son and the goodness and holiness of the Son that is applied to you.
Your entrance into heaven is not determined by the things you do or do not do. Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” In other words, you cannot take credit for your salvation based on what you have done, and you cannot negate your salvation either. Once you are in Christ, because of the gift of faith He has given you, you will always be in Christ. He promises to bring that to completion and promises to never leave or forsake you … ever! So rest assured that a follower of Jesus who in a time of pain ends up taking their own physical life has not lost their eternal life. That rests in that hands of a strong and loving Savior who promised to never let them go.
Still, some will question how a person who follows Jesus could get to the place of despair in which they take their own life. Following Christ is no guarantee that we will never face painful, debilitating times in life. It is no guarantee that we will be free of all illness, physical or mental. It is no guarantee that we will never feel hopeless. What following Christ does do is give us a relationship and tools to overcome such hurdles. But we are not always successful. We could just as easily ask, “How does a person who follows Jesus commit any kind of sin?” On one level it makes no sense that if you have experienced the love and grace of God, that you would ever do anything to displease Him. Yet we all do! It is the consequence of living in a world that is still fallen, caught in sin, awaiting the final redemption and restoration of all things. It is the consequence of now and not yet. We live in Christ now, but we do not yet have the benefit of the fullness of that relationship. The broken world is still broken. So we look to the promised day of restoration when a New Heaven and a New Earth will become one, and we will walk in the full light of God’s grace and mercy and love. It is a promised time of no more tears, no more sorrow, only joy in the Lord.
Lord, we long for that day. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.
By Dr. Dan Lacich
Pastor for Distributed Sites
Northland, A Church Distributed