I write this in the wake of the reported suicide of Robin Williams. Many of us are shocked, and many who battle depression have empathy for him. Everyone should have sympathy, and no one offer condemnation. However, it is very important to realize that suicide is not the answer to peace or escape.
There is a very dangerous belief shared by many Americans when death occurs. I’ve heard it at many funerals, and you’ll hear variations of it as people talk about Robin Williams or others who’ve died, whether by their own hand or in another way. Theologians call the belief in question, “universalism,” which means all people are going to heaven, or to “a better place.” Sadly, I must report the truth, however: everyone who dies will not go to a better place. I realize fully that this is neither comforting nor popular. However, if you are comforting yourself and others at the price of perpetuating a lie, then you are buying a little comfort at the price of eternal pain. If you want to know the truth, then you need to go to the Bible, which is God’s message to humankind.
The Bible teaches the following. Everyone dies. Everyone will be judged by God. “It is appointed for everyone once to die and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Not everyone will be in heaven. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was thrown into the Lake of Fire with the Devil and his angels” (Revelation 20:15). You will be judged. Only those with their names in the book spoken of will go to heaven. How would you know?
Actually, you get to choose one of two destinations, but only two. Either you choose to spend eternity with God in heaven, or to be eternally separated from God, which is hell. There is not a third option. There is no purgatory mentioned in the Bible, even though the Roman Catholic church has developed such a doctrine. Heaven is not a place of your own making, the realization of your fantasies, or the reward of living a good life (even if that were possible on your own).
Appropriately, Robin Williams was in a movie about heaven once. The 1998 release “What Dreams May Come” was based on a 1978 book of the same title by Richard Matheson, The concept of heaven is not one you’ll find in the Bible; instead, it depicts a sort of dream heaven that might be nearer to the idea many share, or, at least, wish for. In the movie heaven is essentially the living out of one’s wishes and desires. This is a “heaven” without God, or perhaps, more accurately, a heaven of one’s own making, so I am my own god. In the film Robin Williams plays the main character, Chris Nielsen, who dies in a car accident and is led through his heaven by a “friendly spirit” (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Chris’s wife, Ann (Annabella Sciorra), commits suicide and lives on in her own self-made hell (the antithesis of this concept of heaven). Chris saves his wife in the end. This kind of thinking has displaced the Bible in our culture and that gives more room for people who are considering suicide to believe they will be in a “better place.”
Williams may have been inclined to believe in some form of reincarnation. Here’s a quote about the film from an interview mentioned in an article by Huffington Press.
“When I watched the final movie, I felt it was extraordinarily beautiful but I felt disappointed by the ending. There was a different ending that they shot that I felt was much more true to the story. It was about reincarnation, basically, that they were going to meet again. The movie ended with two babies being born simultaneously, one in Bombay and one in the United States, and they held them up, and then the screen went to black.”
Did this play into his consideration of suicide? We may never know.
There will be no reincarnation, as Hinduism has it. There will be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous (Revelation 20:6 and surrounding). The righteous are those who’ve been made right by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 3:24-26), who have been reborn by receiving Christ (John 1:12, 3:3 & 5). These people are justified (made right) by Jesus Christ and will rise from the dead and reign with Him. The unrighteous are those who do not believe, who reject Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for their sins . They will come up in the second resurrection and will be judged according to what is written in “the books,” which means they will be judged for their own works. Since none are righteous apart from Christ (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23), they are thrown into the Lake of Fire to be eternally destroyed (Revelation 20:11-15).
Heaven is “God’s space, or God’s dimension” to quote theologian N.T. Wright (from his book Surprised by Hope). This is where God’s throne is (Psalm 11:4). After death we leave earth and enter the dimensions of God’s space beyond time. So, I don’t die and go to “my heaven.” If I don’t believe in God, if I don’t want to be with God, if I want to escape his presence, the only option is hell. This is a realm where people are forever separated from God, and must ultimately pay the penalty for their own sins, which is eternal death, or destruction.
So, there is no heaven apart from God. Even if you were given some realm in which to live out your dreams, without God it would soon become hell. Human beings were made by God and for God (Psalm 100:3). We were made to be loved by God, and to love and worship God (Matthew 22:37-38). Self-love alone is malformed love, which soon devolves into selfish idolatry. I am missing what I was made for if I am apart from God. I become increasingly warped and monstrous the longer I remain separated from God. I believe what will make hell more “hellish” is that those who dwell there will have only self to sense and serve and love. We were created not only to love God but to love other people (Matthew 22:39). In order to do that we must receive the love God offers through Jesus. “Love one another the way I have loved you” (John 15:12). In hell we will be separated, not only from God, but from caring about others. Love will be impossible.
In this fallen world we are naturally separated from God by sin. Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but we are fallen; we are broken. So long as we live in this dimension of time, however, there is time enough to change. We are malformed creatures, who may be reformed into the image of God by putting faith in Jesus Christ. That is our hope and our opportunity now, today. “Today is the day of salvation, now is the time of God’s favor” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This is why suicide is such a horrible lie. When someone commits suicide, they are looking for salvation from their depression and pain. The reality is, they have destroyed the opportunity to be saved in that moment.
A hurting person wants whatever they are going through to stop, but ending their earthly life will not stop it. Instead it may bring more pain than they can possibly imagine. There was a time in the Bible when the people were longing for an end to their difficult circumstances. They cried out for “the Day of the Lord,” which is another way of saying “Judgment Day,” the time when God will make everything right. Problem is, the people who cried out for this were sinning. They were not right with God. In fact, the circumstances they were complaining about were actually sent by God as discipline. The pain they were enduring would only be temporary if they would change their hearts and minds and listen to God. Here is what the prophet Amos told these people about their desire to see the Day of the Lord, and I believe that this is what the suicidal person needs to hear, for they are hastening the day of their own judgment.
“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light,
as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
and a serpent bit him.
Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?”
If you’re hurting, depressed, despairing, there is hope! Your hope is cannot be killing yourself. The Sixth Commandment explicitly forbid this: You shall not kill. That means God commands you not to kill yourself, friend. He loves you and has a better life planned for you than you are currently experiencing. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to help you, not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). The promise made to His exiled people in this verse is for you too. If you are in exile from God, from love, from light, from experiencing life. Jesus offers a rich and satisfying life. It is the enemy of God, Satan, who wants to kill you.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come to give abundant life” (John 10:10). The thief is Satan. He is a murderer and a liar; in fact, he is the source of the lies you are believing right now. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b).
Change your thinking, friend. Change your ways. Turn your life completely over to the care of the Lord Jesus Christ, right now.
We all sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us earn death for our sin. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Jesus died so you don’t have to! Jesus also rose from the dead. He overcame our worst enemy, the devil, and our greatest fear, death.
“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had* the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”
(Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT).
Jesus is alive and He offers you the gift of eternal life, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).
You need to be saved. “What must we do to be saved” (Acts 2:38a)? All you have to do is turn away from your own thinking and your own ways and turn toward Jesus Christ. “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38b). Call out to Jesus right now. Admit you’ve sinned, admit that suicidal thoughts are sin. Confess that Jesus died and rose so that you can be forgiven and saved. “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved… whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9 & 13).
Pray right now:
I believe in you.
I believe you died for my sins.
I believe you rose from the dead.
I give you my life, right now.
I want your Holy Spirit to live inside of me.
I receive you, your gift of eternal life and all that you have to offer.
Jesus Christ, you are Lord and God.
You are my God.
Now, get to a church and get some support. Start reading your Bible so that your mind can be renewed and transformed (Romans 12:2). If you haven’t been baptized in water since you gave your life to Jesus Christ, you must be. He commanded it.
For more, visit our church’s website http://lifewellchurch.com
Pastor this is a great sermon, too bad it will not be published on the front page of the Dallas Morning News. Thanks for sharing it . I will be praying for many people to read and heed your instructions. Many churches are sugar coating salvation and suicide. You will be blessed
publishing the truth.
Thank you Vernon. Let’s pray for those in the wake of this tragedy who would take what Robin Williams has done as an ok to do the same. And, of course, for peace and truth to reign.