In teaching through the Book of Acts on Sunday mornings at White Fields I recently taught the section in Acts 1 where it talks about how Judas committed suicide after betraying Jesus.
Afterwards someone wrote a question:
Did Judas go to hell? Is suicide a deal breaker? Judas knew that what he did was wrong, so is it possible that he will go to heaven?
It is hard for us to say with certainty about anyone’s eternal destiny; that is something which ultimately is only known by God. However, we do have good reason to assume that Judas did go to hell based on two things that Jesus said:
Matthew 26:20-25. At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples that one of them would betray him, and then he says: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born”. The implication is that it would be better for a person not to have been born than to go to hell.In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father about and for the disciples and he says in Vs 12: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction”
Based on these 2 verses I think we can assume that Judas did go to hell.
However, did he go to hell because he committed suicide? No, that wasn’t why. The reason Judas went to hell is because, rather than repenting of his sin and seeking and receiving forgiveness and restoration from Jesus, he chose to end his life. This reminds us that feeling bad about your sin is not the same as repenting of your sin and receiving forgiveness.
Interestingly, Judas is not the only one of Jesus’ disciples who betrayed him. Peter also betrayed him, and several other disciples “scattered” when Jesus was arrested. Peter and Judas are an interesting contrast: Peter returns and is restored, whereas Judas goes off and kills himself. Peter betrayed Jesus but then was forgiven and restored; Judas did not return to Jesus, and therefore missed the opportunity for grace and forgiveness and restoration.
Jesus’ words about the lostness of Judas should be seen in regard to his foreknowledge that Judas would not return to repent and receive forgiveness and restoration.
To the point about suicide: It has been taught in certain Christian groups that suicide is an unforgivable sin. This has been based 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 which says: “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.” This is one of those instances where it helps to know other languages, if not even the original language. Because when you read this in the original (or in other languages which differentiate between you (singular) and you (plural), it becomes immediately clear from the context as well, that this is not talking about suicide at all, but what Paul is talking about is the church! In other words: You all are the temple of the Holy Spirit. — the context of 1 Corinthians chapter 3 is that Paul is talking about people who cause division in the church! He says that the Church — the Christ-ordained gathering of the people of God — is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and whoever destroys the church, through division, will be judged by God!
In other words – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is not talking about suicide but it is speaking to those who cause division in the church. Is suicide an unforgivable sin? I don’t see why we should believe it is. That being said, I would not encourage anyone to test God on this. The message of the Gospel is new life and restoration in Jesus Christ from any and all forms of despair, and the hope of eternal live and joy for those who persevere.