Will Committing Suicide Send a Person to Hell?

May 04, 2017 04:23 PM EDT

The question "If a person commits suicide, will that person go to hell?" is arguably one of the toughest and most frequently debated questions among believers. Here, Christian apologist and author Dr. Ravi Zacharias weighs in on the subject.

Zacharias, speaking before an audience, admitted he did not have an "absolute answer." However, he pointed to a verse in the Bible that refers to murder: Genesis 9:6.

The verse reads, "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."

He explained that taking a life, whether someone's life or your own, is an attack on God's image.

"In Genesis 9:6, murder is called the ultimate attack upon the image of God. That's what murder is," Zacharais said. "So by violating the image of God in someone else, or I violate it in myself, it is the ultimate act of lack of faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please God."

"I'd just say this: I wouldn't want to meet the Lord after I have taken my life," he said.

Zacharias also said he will not "stand as judge" in front of a family who lost a loved one through suicide because God is the one who determines a person's eternal fate.

"I cannot stand as a judge and tell the parent of an 18- or a 19-year-old their life has been wasted ... that that's the end and that person is hellbound," he said. "That's not my prerogative in life."

"I would have to leave God as the judge and leave God to work for the peace of a family that has had to live through it."

The apologist briefly recounted the time when he himself attempted to end his life. He said it was a moment he found difficult to talk to his parents about, and it took years before he was able to do so.

He wrote his testimony in a 2013 article for Christianity Today. When he was a teenager, his life revolved around cricket and tennis. He did not have good grades, and he received beatings from his father because of it.  

Not excelling in school became a source of shame for him, especially in Delhi where kids are expected to do well in their studies.

"I often pondered life's meaning," he wrote. "Rich in friends, impoverished when alone, I was well on my way to an isolated me."

His failure in his studies kept haunting him, until one day, he decided to end his life, thinking to himself that "a quiet exit will save my family from further shame." He hid in the bathroom and drank poison. He was 17 years old.

Fortunately, their servant was able to rescue him and brought him to the hospital. While there, Fred David, the director for Youth for Christ, gave him a Bible and asked his mother to read to him starting at John 14.

The words of Jesus in John 14:19 struck him: "Because I live, you also will live." And God turned his life around.

"The fact that I tried to take my life is a devastating thought to me. The only consolation I have is that I didn't know Christ at the time," he said. "Now that I know Him, I will never violate the image of God that is given to me."

He then talked about Romans 14, which says that "everything that does not come from faith is sin." This means doing something outside a conviction that God has given you is "clearly a sinful thing to do," he explained.

If he came across anybody who is contemplating suicide, he would tell that person to not go through with it and to treasure God's gift of life.  

"Eternal destinies are in the hands of God, but the moment is for us to choose and select. Let us not violate what God has given to us as a sacred gift. It is a privilege that is entrusted," he continued.

He also encouraged those who are going through difficult times to trust God in the unknown and "through the wildest twists and turns. When you finally meet with Him, you'll find He sustained you the greatest in your darkest night of the soul."

"Life is too precious. Don't squander it," he said. "Go out into the darkness. Put your hand into the hand of God. It shall be to you better than the light and safer than the known."