It all depends upon whether or not the person who commits suicide is a Christian.
Let us be very clear at the outset: everyone who dies outside of Christ—regardless of the manner of death (whether suicide, murder, or death by natural causes)—is beyond the hope of salvation.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).
And the apostle John said, “Whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn. 5:12b).
Likewise, Paul said, “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
And of course it is only in this life that we have the opportunity to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, because our eternal destiny is fixed at death. In Hebrews we’re told, “It is appointed to man to die once and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
So, if a person departs this life outside of Christ, he has no hope of salvation. This is true regardless of whether or not he died by his own hand.
But what about a Christian who dies by his own hand? What about a Christian who commits suicide?
Someone might ask, “Is it even possible for a true Christian to commit suicide?”
Well of course it is. A Christian is not immune to temptation. Some of God’s choicest saints have fallen into some very grievous sins, but were not forsaken by God.
Think of David. He betrayed Uriah, a very close friend, by committing adultery with his wife. And when she became pregnant with his child, he attempted to cover it up by arranging for Uriah’s death in battle. He committed adultery and an act that was tantamount to murder. But he was not forsaken by God. God brought him to repentance.
Or think of Peter. Three times Peter denied the Lord Jesus Christ; but Christ did not abandon him. Rather, our Lord labored to reclaim him, and brought him to repentance.
There is no temptation to which the people of God are immune just because they are the people of God. It’s quite possible that a Christian might be tempted to suicide, and not only be tempted, but also fall to the temptation.
Think of a person who is overwhelmed with grief over the loss of a loved one, or someone who is perhaps even partly responsible for the death of a loved one—say a parent who backs the car out of the driveway and accidentally runs over a child. It’s easy to understand how he might think the grief too unbearable to continue to live. He could very well be tempted to suicide.
Or think of a Christian who has a mental illness or some trauma to the brain or a thyroid condition that leads to chemical imbalances in the brain. The moods of depression that sometimes lead to desperate acts, like suicide, are not entirely under their control.
Now please understand that I’m not saying suicide is right. I’m not saying it’s excusable. I’m not saying it’s not a sin. I’m saying it’s a temptation which would be understandable even for a Christian under such circumstances.
And the question is, if a Christian succumbs to the temptation and ends up taking his own life, is he beyond the hope of salvation? Some would say “yes” because there is no possibility of repentance in this life.
But are you sure you want to travel down that road? Must a Christian depart this world with all his sins properly confessed and repented of if he hopes to be saved? What if there are some sins that you have forgotten about and have never properly confessed before you die? Or what if you die suddenly, say in an accident, and you have not had the opportunity to confess your sins? Does that mean that you have no hope of salvation because you have died with some sins un-repented of? Is that how God deals with us? I don’t think so. What matters is whether or not we are united to Jesus Christ by a true and living faith.
Where there is a true and living faith there is a desire to please the Lord, and the mercy of God flows toward us in the forgiveness of sins when we stumble and fall.
Let me summarize. Suicide is a very grievous sin, to be sure. Only God has the right to determine when a human life might be taken; and he has not given us the right to take our own life. But a Christian who is overwhelmed by excessive sorrow or fear, or who is moved by mental illness to take his own life, is more an object of God’s compassion than of his condemnation.