There are denominations that believe if you die by suicide, God will automatically send you to hell, regardless of anything else you’ve ever believed. Does the Bible back this up?
There is only one passage in Scripture where this argument is made from.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ESV
Beyond the inconsistency of this view, let’s look deeper at the 1 Corinthians text itself. Paul’s temple analogy here doesn’t begin in verse 16, it begins in verse 9:
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ESV
Paul then talks about how the Church has been built, with him laying the foundation, and how others, including the readers, are building upon that foundation. Here’s the key: every time the word “you” or “your” is found in verses 9-17, it is plural.
This is not an abstract, Bible-nerd trivia fact. This is why there is no way verses 16-17 can be referring to God sending someone to hell for suicide.
Instead of reading verses 16 and 17 as “You are that temple,” as if one individual is God’s temple so if that one individual is destroyed, God’s temple was destroyed, and now God is really mad because his temple is gone and now is going to send whoever did it to hell. We must read the text as, “You ALL are that temple,” or “You ALL collectively make up that temple,” which is the living Church. So whoever tries to destroy the Church, will be destroyed.
I’m also not sure how “destroyed” became to be understood as “and automatically sent to hell,” since that’s not in the text at all, but I digress. The greater point is what the Greek says about the word “You.” For those who aren’t following me with the Greek reference, the New Testament was not written in English, it was written in Greek. And in Greek, they had two ways of saying “you,” whereas in English we only have one. “You” can mean, “Hey you guy, get out of my way.” Or “You” could mean, “Hey you Americans, you need to vote.” In English, it’s the same word, in Greek it’s not (I think those Greeks were on to something). The biblical text states with no ambiguity whatsoever that the “you” used throughout 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 is plural and thus has nothing to do with killing an individual person, therefore has nothing to do with suicide.
Don’t believe me? The 2011 NIV has updated the English translation of this passage to a more accurate understanding of what the Greek text says:
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
It is tragic and biblically unfounded to believe suicide trumps the truth of the gospel that any sinner who repents and puts their faith in Jesus will be saved. This has huge theological ramifications.
If you believe this about suicide, you do not believe the gospel.
I know that is a strong statement, but how can you believe the gospel, that Jesus’ death on the cross was strong enough to cleanse us from all our sins, when you are saying there is a sin stronger than Jesus’ power to do that? That is a small and weak Jesus. That is not the Jesus, or the gospel, of the Bible.
Depression is real. I’ve struggled with it for many years, as have many close Christian friends of mine. The statement, “God will never give you more than you can handle,” is false and is certainly not a quote from the Bible. Jesus himself had more than he could handle! In the Garden of Gethsemane he cries out to the Father in agony, praying that he wouldn’t have to die on the cross (Luke 22:42). It was more than he could handle, which peaked on the cross when he cries out in exasperation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Suicide is not the answer when we are feeling overwhelmed or in despair, but what is the purpose of creating shame-filled dogma that is no where to be found in Scripture?
If you are considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are considering suicide, know that there is hope for you in the gospel. That in the gospel, you are a beloved son or daughter of God and he will see you through your storms. Reach out to a Christian friend, counselor, or pastor.
If you have a loved one who has has died by suicide, do not believe any false doctrines that they were automatically sent to hell because of their act. My heart breaks for you, and so does God’s.
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