One of the most difficult issues I have had to deal with as a pastor is the pain, grief, guilt, and the questions raised by the loved ones left behind in the wake of a suicide. Words to those affected by a suicide close to the loved ones are shallow and typically not very helpful. I hope that Junior Seau’s loved ones have loving and caring shepherding Christians to be there for them, listen to them, and love on them during a very dark time of grief and loss. Massimo Lorenzini (and John MacArthur) has done a good job in the article below addressing one of the most important questions that can be asked about suicide and death. Massimo recounts how he addressed the question above with a mother whose son had committed suicide. I hope that what the Bible has to say about salvation and will be clarifying, and comforting to those who are considering Junior Seau’s tragic death, and their own preparation for life now, and the afterlife. My condolences, prayers, and thoughts are with the Seau family, teammates, coaches, friends, and thousands of appreciative fans. I will never forget Junior’s passion for the game and outstanding skills as one of the best linebacker’s I’ve ever seen. – Dr. David P. Craig
Can a person who has committed suicide be saved? Below is my response to a woman whose son committed suicide. She said that he professed faith in Christ but allowed depression to overwhelm him and he finally took his own life.
I was very sad to learn of your son’s tragedy. You asked me if you should be worried about his act.
First, this, as you know, is a very difficult question to answer with certainty. In fact, I don’t think it can be answered with absolute certainty. So, though we can make some attempts to determine a person’s spiritual condition, ultimately God is the final judge of a person’s soul.
Second, let me say that I do not believe suicide is the unpardonable sin.
Third, though I don’t believe suicide is the unpardonable sin, I still believe that it is sin. I believe that God is the author of life and it is not within our rights to take any life, even our own.
With regard to your son, I’m not very clear on the nature of your son’s Christian testimony. Let me share with you the marks of genuine saving faith.
Here are 7 Evidences that neither prove nor disprove one’s faith:
(1) Visible morality – “And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me… “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 19:16-21; 23:27).
(2) Intellectual knowledge – “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened… They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God…But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 1:21; 2:15-17, 29).
(3) Religious involvement – “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:1-10).
(4) Active Ministry – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:21-24).
(5) Conviction of sin – “And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” (Acts 24:25).
(6) Assurance – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13; See entirety of Matthew 23).
(7) Time of Decision – “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:13-14).
Now, here are 9 Proofs of Authentic Faith:
(1) Love for God – “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God… And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself… For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Psalm 42:1; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7).
(2) Repentance from sin – “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin… Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy… For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin…For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death…If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10).
(3) Genuine Humility – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise… Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you… But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6).
(4) Devotion to God’s glory – “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!… Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!… everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made… Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another… Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord…So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7; 48:10-11; Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
(5) Continual prayer – “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth…Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18).
(6) Selfless love – “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness… We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death… Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God… A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (1John 2:9; 3:14; 4:7; John 13:34-35).
(7) Separation from the world – “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God…You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us…Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-19; 5:5)
(8) Spiritual growth – “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience… “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16).
(9) Obedient living – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…You are my friends if you do what I command you… but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you… Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him” (Matthew 7:21; John 15:14; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2,22-23; 1 John 2:3-5).
If the first list is true of a person and the second list is false, there is cause to question the validity of a profession of faith. Yet if the second list is true, then the first list will be also.
Now, since I don’t know your son’s testimony I am not in any position to say whether he was a Christian or not. You will have to look at his testimony in light of God’s Word as I have shared with you and attempt to discern this as difficult as it may be.
After doing this, if you believe he possessed genuine faith, then it may be that he made the decision to take his own life in a moment of confusion without really thinking about it. In that case it’s possible that the act does not necessarily show that he was not a true believer. On the other hand, it may be that though your son claimed to be a believer, this final act of suicide demonstrated his true character; that he in fact was not a true believer all along. The act may represent a final act of unbelief and a surrender to despair and hopelessness rather than a confidence in the living God.
Here is how John MacArthur, a very respected Bible teacher today, answers the question: Can one who commits suicide be saved?
Suicide is a grave sin equivalent to murder (Exodus 20:13; 21:23), but it can be forgiven like any other sin. And Scripture says clearly that those redeemed by God have been forgiven for all their sins–past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
So if a true Christian would commit suicide in a time of extreme weakness, he or she would be received into heaven (Jude 24). But we question the faith of those who take their lives or even consider it seriously–it may well be that they have never been truly saved.
I say that because God’s children are defined repeatedly in Scripture as those who have hope (Acts 24:15; Romans 5:2-5, 8:24; 2 Corinthians 1:10, etc.) and purpose in life (Luke 9:23-25; Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:29). And those who think of committing suicide do so because they have neither hope nor purpose in their lives. Furthermore, one who repeatedly considers suicide is practicing sin in his heart (Proverbs 23:7), and 1 John 3:9 says that “no one who is born of God practices sin.” And finally, suicide is often the ultimate evidence of a heart that rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ, because it is an act where the sinner is taking his life into his own hands completely rather than submitting to God’s will for it. Surely many of those who have taken their lives will hear those horrifying words from the Lord Jesus at the judgment–“I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
So though it may be possible for a true believer to commit suicide, we believe that is an unusual occurrence. Someone considering suicide should be challenged above all to examine himself to see whether he is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). [End of MacArthur’s quote]
So, to answer your question, you need to determine as best you can, by God’s Word, as to whether he was a true Christian or merely a counterfeit. This will not be easy, I know. If you are convinced, by God’s Word and not your emotions or any other standard, that he was a true Christian then you may hope to see your son again in Heaven. Let your confidence rest in God and His Word and once you’ve made your determination about your son’s condition, do not allow yourself to be swayed by your emotions or the reaction of others. But in the end, our judgment concerning a person being saved or not is limited and not final. Though, we may have assurance of our own salvation (1 John 5:13), only God can make that final determination on another person’s soul.
“As for you, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you” (2 Cor. 13:14).
Article adapted from Pastor Massimo Lorenzini’s article from http://www.frontlinemin.org/suicide.asp. I have included all Scripture references from the English Standard Version (ESV).