What the Bible says about Cremation
First let us consider these two verses of scripture:
1 Corinthians 6: 19~20 "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which areGodís."
Phil. 1:20 "according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death."
These scriptures indicate that our bodies are not ours but the Lords; and are to honor our bodies in life and in death. There is a stigma of honour attached to burial that is not found with cemation. Even among the non-believers, some question if cremation would be right. There is the question that we are not glorifing God in our bodies when we subject the body to fire in death. It seems that we are not giving proper honor to God for the bodies that He gave us to take care of.
Now let us consider that the Bible does not give any specific teaching or commands about the mode of disposing the body after death; no mention for or against burial, cremation, or any other means. We see as we examine the whole of scripture that the most common practice was through burial. Cremation was not commonly practiced by Old or New Testament believers and Godís people in the Bible practiced burial as the common means of disposing of a body.
Other Relative Messages to Consider
There are a few examples of cremation such as in 1 Kings 16:18 and 2 Kings 21:6;
and also of human bones being burned 2 Kings 23:16-20.
but with careful study, these are not examples of the practice of cremation.
The first mention of a formal burial was in Gen. 23:4-6,
when Abrahamís wife Sarah died. Other examples of burial are found in Genesis 23:1-4 (Sarah); Genesis25:8-10(Abraham); Genesis 35:29 (Isaac); Genesis 50:26 (Joseph); Joshua 24:29-30 (Joshua); 1 Samuel 25:1 (Samuel); 1 Kings 2:10 (David); Matthew 14:10-12(John the Baptist); Acts 5:5-10 (Ananias and Sapphira) Acts 8:2 (Stephen).
Burial may be in the will of God for His people, seen by the fact that God Himself buried Moses, Deut.34:5,6.
From Genesis 50:24-25 and Exodus 13:19
we see that Joseph's body under difficult circumstances was held for 400 years in Egypt and then another 40 years of wandering in the wilderness before being buried in the Promised Land. The Israelites refused the more convenient and simpler way and chose to carry Joseph's remains to the Promised Land.
Now consider that the burning of bodies in ancient Israel were mostly reserved for idols, criminals and enemies; such as in Lev. 21:9; Deut. 7:25; Judges 15:6; Jer. 29:22; 2 Kings 10:26; Amos 2:1; Lev. 20:14 and Joshua 7:15-25.
The burning of human remains by fire generally spoke of the judgment of sin. Also consider that the destruction of a human body by fire is often seen as a sign of divine wrath or of God's curse, such as in 2 Peter 2:6 (Sodom and Gomorrah); Leviticus 10:1,2 (Nadab and Abihu); Acts 19:18-19 (magic books); Exodus 32:20; 2 Kings 10:26; 1 Chron. 14:12; Deut. 7:25; (idols), Revelation 20:15 (unsaved cast into the lake of fire).
Again scripture such as 1 Cor. 6: 19~20 and Phil. 1:20
tells us that our body is not ours to desecrate or destroy, but only the Lords. The scriptures seem to indicate that man himself does not have the freedom to choose to destroy his own body. Romans 14:8 "For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lordís;"
reminds us that this is true both in life and in death.
Burial is also consistent with the expectation of the resurrection. From Rom. 8:22,23 we see "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body."
Now it is important to know that if one has been cremated; if they were saved through the blood of Jesus Christ, the fact of cremation won't keep him out of heaven. So spiritually what happens to the body after death is inconsequential. Whether the body returns to decay through slow disintegration or in a matter of minutes by fire, the result is the same. The most important question is whether or not the deceased had trusted Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, whether or not that one had been born again.
In closing scripture has no commands that neither supports nor condemns cremation. There is some evidence that seems to support burial; such as some would quote Genesis 3:19, which says, "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return;" argumentatively speaking that we should allow the body to return to dust at its own rate.
It is evident from reading scripture that burial, and not cremation, is in full harmony with the hope of the resurrection. Symbolism is important in scripture; historically cremation has been associated with the efforts of pagans in their denial of the resurrection of the body.
We should not desire cremation. When we look carefully, we understand that it is more than just a custom or tradition, it is a Biblical symbolism of separation and division between heathen/pagan and Christian heritages.
There are reasons to consider both sides of the issue. A Christian considering this issue should pray for wisdom and follow the conviction that results.
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