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Friday, August 15, 2014

Is suicide a one-way ticket to Hell or the Lake of Fire?

The recent death of comedian Robin Williams has generated a great deal of discussion about suicide. These kinds of events inevitably bring to mind questions about how God might regard suicide. Is suicide the unpardonable sin - the one that God will not forgive?

I think that Mary Fairchild wrote an excellent article on this subject entitled "The Bible and Suicide - What Does the Bible Say About Suicide?" You can read her article for yourself at the following link: http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/a/Bible-Suicide.htm

Ms. Fairchild points out that it is not inappropriate to regard suicide as a sin. After all, it is the intentional taking of one's own life or self-murder. She goes on to point out that six of the seven mentions of suicide in Scripture are presented in a negative light (Abimelech, Samson, Saul, Saul's Armor Bearer, Ahitophel, Zimri and Judas. Ms. Fairchild also quotes the Old Testament scripture where God encourages the Israelites to choose life over death. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) The message is clear here, God wants "His" people to choose life.

Nevertheless, in this respect, suicide is no different from any other sin that we might commit. Christ said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was the only unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31). Why? Because a person who engages in this sin is denying the power of God to forgive sin. Such a person is saying that his/her sin is simply too great - They are saying that a particular sin supersedes God's ability to forgive. And to be clear, we're not talking about chronic depression, an overwhelming sense of despair regarding some sin or someone who is mentally and physically exhausted by their struggle against some addiction, sin or illness. We are talking about someone who has made a deliberate decision to never seek forgiveness - who has convinced him/her self that their sin(s) exceeds the Holy Spirit's capacity to forgive, cleanse and transform them.

It is interesting that Robin Williams acted in the 1998 movie "What Dreams May Come." In the movie, Robin's character and his wife (Annabella Sciorra) lose two children in a car accident. Robin's character dies four years later and the wife loses hope and commits suicide. Mr. William's character ends up in heaven with his two children, but his wife's self-murder condemns her to hell. Mr. William's character then embarks on an epic journey to hell to rescue his beloved wife. In the process, he almost loses his own soul in hell; but love triumphs in the end. He and his wife are finally able to join their children in heaven and live happily ever after there together for all eternity. Unfortunately, as portrayed in the movie, many folks regard suicide as a one-way ticket to hell.

The obvious problem with this view is that God has the ability to forgive all sin. There are no limits on God's ability to forgive. Remember, we are the ones who attempt to limit God. In her article, Mary Fairchild points out that Christ's work is finished - He has already paid the penalty (death) for all of the sins that have or ever will be committed by us. In other words, it's a done deal for anyone who has accepted Christ as their Savior (And, according to Scripture, everyone will be given a chance to do that - people living and dead who have never had that opportunity - folks from all religious traditions). Ms. Fairchild references one of the most famous passages in the New Testament to demonstrate her point: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him." (John 3:16-18, NLT)

Ms. Fairchild also quotes Paul's words of encouragement to the Christians of Rome: "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, NLT) She concludes: "It bears repeating—suicide is a terrible tragedy, but it does not negate the Lord's act of redemption. Our salvation rests securely in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. So then, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Romans 10:13, NIV)

I heartily concur with Ms. Fairchild's conclusions. Suicide is not a one-way ticket to Hell or the Lake of Fire. People who commit suicide are not necessarily excluded from heaven, God's Kingdom or whatever you believe happens to good people when they die.

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