The Crucified Life Ministries Blog

The Practice of Cremation and Christian Belief

The Practice of Cremation and Christian Belief an excerpt from our book: a99a158d842862a9fbd6cf51e911b536 which is available on our website

All things are built upon the foundation of GOD despite whether a person chooses to believe in God and live for Him or not. 

It is the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ which sets the Truth of the Bible apart from any other belief system; because we serve a risen Savior who honored the will of His Father by bearing the penalty for all sin; past, present, and future, including my sin and yours. 

Jesus Christ could have said “No!” to God’s will for Himself as He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane that evening but Jesus prayed to His Father: 

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying,  Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:41-42 KJV) 

Jesus chose to die for sin, yours and mine, as He knelt before God in the Garden of Gethsemane gathering strength for fulfilling God’s will out of His great love for God first and foremost, and for us.

Jesus Christ serves as a perfect example to those who desire to follow God’s will as they sojourn upon this earth.  God does have a will for each’s life; as does the devil.  We are either living in the will of God or following the dark will of the god of this world.

God’s perfect will, commandments, and precepts outlined in the Bible are how God desires for us to live; however, ultimately God gives us free will to choose to live in obedience to Him or to exist living in harmony to the god of this world and turning our back toward the things of God.

God has given us all the instructions we need in His Word for life and encourages mankind to commit His Word to their heart and search His Word for all answers of life.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11 KJV

 

In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon was eternally lost and searching for the meaning of life in ancient biblical times.  He came to realize things he once thought were important and necessary for life were just vanity; like vapor, they all disappear. The Bible tells us worldly wisdom comes from the god of this world, and spiritual wisdom is given by God to those who ask.  These avenues reach vastly different conclusions about life, death, judgment, and eternity.

Solomon wrote: 

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:12-14 KJV)

There is the only answer to real living or successful spiritual living; “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man…”  Solomon became very spiritually minded and wise in questions of life.  Anyone who is living spiritually alive can ascertain the greater truths by communicating with God in a hearty prayer life and studying His teachings and precepts contained in His Word.

Today we have the complete Word of God, which contains godly precepts about both life and death,  Including pertinent information useful for making a choice between burial and cremation at the end of physical life.

The Bible does clearly state all mankind has a physical death sentence.  One day we will all physically die; ending up by our choice in Heaven or Hell for all eternity.   

Solomon wrote about death: 

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; (Ecclesiastes 3:2 KJV)

Paul write about it in the New Testament: 

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:  (Hebrews 9:27 KJV)

Those who have heard the message of salvation, choosing to believe in faith, repenting of their sin have been quickened alive by the Holy Spirit.  The Bible tells us all mankind is born physically alive but spiritually dead, because of sin.  Those who have been quickened spiritually alive will pass on from death to eternal life at their God appointed hour of physical death or in the event of Christ’s return to earth in the clouds for His spiritual family.  Those found to possess a personal relationship

With God through His Son will be passed from their physical death unto eternal spiritual life.  Those who are found without a relationship with God based upon faith will pass on to the second death and life eternal amid relentless flames of Hell.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24 KJV

In my Bible study about life and death, I began to see just how important it is to understand what God’s Word has to say about physical life and physical death for attaining proper spiritual understanding of life, death and eternity.

Sadly, many today do not have a spiritually based understanding of life and death and especially a biblical understanding about the eternal realm and the actual existence of both Heaven and Hell.  Both life and death are represented in the gospel of Jesus Christ, through the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  All three persons, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are distinct, with each having crucial roles in the death, burial, and resurrection of the gospel message.  There would not be eternal salvation if any one of the three holy events were missing from the gospel message.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV)

Our physical death or His second coming is the crux or waypoint where saved individuals spiritually pass from death unto eternal life. Individuals who know nothing about a relationship based on faith in God will pass from death to a second death in the lake of fire, the fiery pit of Hell; ever wanting to die, but not able.  If you think living in this world is an unpleasant existence Hell will be much worse.  An unending torment lasting forever brought about for the wages of sin for any who did not accept the free gift of salvation through His finished work on the cross.

Let’s examine further what the Bible does say about death, burial, and resurrection to use in determining a biblically based response when faced with choosing burial or cremation in preparation of death.

The Bible tells us our body is His temple: that we are to be a representation for His glory and honor in the flesh.  We are to live crucified with Christ, with Him living in us and through us as we sojourn on earth and for all eternity.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 KJV)

Christians then, of all people, should live with the utmost respect for their physical bodies and their surroundings representing the temple of God.  The Bible says we should honor our body just as if it is Christ himself.  Therefore, what we do or neglect to do for our body, is like doing it unto Christ.

Taking this knowledge into consideration and contemplating our choice, therefore, concerning life and death is not our own.  When living for Christ, we are ultimately representing Him as well as an entire body of true believers as we live and die.  Any choices made must stack up against the commandments and precepts of the Bible because they impact God foremost are an example for others who are watching us in the culmination of our life, as well as affect the lives of family members and friends, as final death does make its approach in God’s timing.

Read and contemplate upon the following verses:

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  (1 Corinthians 10:31 (KJV)

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  (Philippians 1:20 KJV)

 

Notice: both verses say by our life and by our death we represent Him. Therefore, I understand that any choice I make in life and in preparation to die, or in advance in anticipation of death at some future point, or in the sudden death of a friend or relative, should appropriately glorify and honor God.   Not all available choices exist to honor and glorify God.  Some are solutions straight from the darkness of the god of this world, who always offers an alternate pathway for us to follow in contrast to God’s will for our life as well as in death.

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:7-12 KJV)  

 

Some might say that in death we are just an empty shell but the book of Second Kings miraculously records an event where God chose to provide a wondrous spiritual feat from the dead bones of Elisha.  Wow! Can you imagine this happening today?  Even in death, God can use physically lifeless or dead bodies if He deems it necessary for bringing about His will.

The Bible describes how God used Elisha even after the onset of his physical death: 

And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. (2 Kings 13:20-21 KJV

This brings me to the point of contemplating the process of cremation for a true believer who has professed faith in Jesus Christ possessing a true relationship with God.  How to properly handle a dead body is not presented as a commandment of God in Exodus.  However, there are several teachings and precepts we can gather in making a biblically based decision from a deeper study of His Word.

So I must ask several pointed questions looking only within Bibles passages for answers and precepts, not basing my answer upon the opinion and way of the world as I delve into His scripture:

  • Does it make any difference to God whether a Christian chooses to be cremated or have a family member cremated?
  • Is cremation mirroring the truths found in God’s Word or following traditions and customs of man?
  • Is there such a thing as proper burial?
  • Is it a commandment, precept, or a custom I am basing my decision upon?
  • Does cremation bring about God’s judgment or bestow a curse?
  • Is cremation a neutral area where God’s Word is silent, allowing Christian liberty through choice based on precepts and teachings of the Bible?
  • Is it defacing the image of God and following after a social “death fashion trend” of the world?
  • How does God view cremation and burial?
  • Does choice of cremation for many boil down to finances today, with the choice of cremation often made because it is less expensive and a nature-friendly alternative to burial?

In recent years there has been an influx of individuals choosing cremation at death for themselves and loved ones.  Many would argue with a strong opinion that being cremated is less costly and more environmentally friendly to the earth and therefore the best choice.

Life has the best choice, good choices, and poor choices.  As a Christian, I often hear both God’s precepts and man’s opinions, but must base all my decisions upon the truth of God’s Word. This process includes forming an unwavering spiritual answer for all things, even to include an answer for death, whether it will be burial or cremation.

I believe Jesus Christ gave us the ultimate or most significant example ever of death, burial, and resurrection.  The Bible contains many examples of death and burial practices, from patriarchs to paupers and from kings to servants for us to take to heart, gleaning a proper understanding of God’s view of dying and death. His example helps in ascertaining His perfect will for our life and our future physical death as we are ushered into eternity.

People of all races and social status were buried in caves, sepulchers, and within the ground at their physical death in the Old Testament; but rarely was there any recording of persons burned at their death.  Any who were recorded as burned to death or at the climax of their physical death were ultimately living in enmity against the things of God and His perfect will for their life upon this earth, and the burning of their body was done in relation to their choice of lifestyle.

Starting with an exploration of the Old Testament scripture and working forward I found these verses relative for study and reference in contemplating a choice for burial or cremation.   The Bible does have many examples of death and burial.

Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan. And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth. (Genesis 23:18-20 KJV)  

Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.  (Genesis 25:8-10 KJV)

But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth. (Genesis 35:8 KJV)

And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day. (Genesis 35:17-20 KJV)

A pillar or sepulcher placed upon the grave is also an important thing to consider at death and I will dive into that subject deeper at a later time in this writing.  The practice was mentioned several times in scriptures.

And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.(Genesis 35:29 KJV)  

There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. (Genesis 49:31 KJV)

And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. (Genesis 50:2)

This was the first mention of embalming in scripture; also important to ponder further as it is mentioned more than once in Scripture, most importantly, The Lord Himself was to be lovingly embalmed with spices and oil.

And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father’s house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph’s knees. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. (Genesis 50:22-26 KJV)

So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. (Deuteronomy 34:5-8 KJV)

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:8-10 KJV)

This verse clearly eludes that the next generation, after the death of Joshua, knew not the Lord.  The spiritual void within mankind certainly changed the moral fiber and spiritual essence of hearts, and their outward conduct fell as well, leading down a pathway of greater tolerance towards things contrary to a holy God. 

And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran. (1 Samuel 25:1 KJV)

Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: (1 Kings 2:1-3 KJV)

So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. (1 Kings 2:10 KJV)

And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat. (1 Kings 21:23-24 KJV)

These verses described allowing wild dogs and birds to scavenge Jezebel’s body out in the open because she was living in darkness bent towards wickedness and evil, instead of burial in the earth as many previous examples were given for those who had been living in light of the things of God.  Jezebel had lived in rampant sin for the god of this world and ultimately had wrought a different conclusion and example in her death as well.

 And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign. And they buried him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art: and they made a very great burning for him. (2 Chronicles 16:13-14 KJV)

Scripture verses taken from the New Testament on death and burial:

For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:3-12 KJV)

 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. (Matthew 27:3-7 KJV)

Even Judas, who was the one disciple who betrayed Jesus, was given a proper burial in the ground reserved for strangers upon choosing to take his life when faced with condemnation of his evil sin.

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. ( Matthew 27:57-60 KJV)

Lazarus was buried in John 11:17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.  John 11:38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. (John 11:24-27 KJV)

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. (Acts 8:1-2 KJV)

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. (Acts 5:3-6 KJV)

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. (Acts 5:9-11 KJV)

 

And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied. (Acts 12:22-24 KJV)

No mention of burial for Herod. However, it is important to note Herod was immediately struck down for wrongly taking the glory and honor from the people instead of pointing it towards God.  Stealing God’s glory brought about quick death and righteous judgment from God.

Starting in the Old Testament and working my way through the entire Bible, it is clear that it was common for people to be buried in a tomb, cave, or in the ground often without any regard for position or social status.   Some would say ancient beliefs based on God clearly rejected the act of cremation because the practice was built upon ungodliness and adopted from pagan philosophies of man which often included sacrifice by fire in an ungodly manner in a celebration towards pagan deities rather than given unto God for His honor and glory.  The Scriptures clearly teach from the beginning that God created our bodies and His creation was described as good in the account of creation in the book of Genesis. 

Many in the pulpit today are strangely silent on this trending practice and few, if any, preachers have sermons which have been preached on this subject or have even taken the time to study this in depth for themselves. Therefore, it appears through their silence that many pastors and professing Christians willingly and readily accept cremation as a feasible and practical option at death.  Many people may often accept this practice without giving any thought to how God views this practice or base their answer without consulting what scriptures have to say in His Word. 

The early church, established in the New Testament book of Acts, viewed burial as an expression of faith in Jesus’ redemption of their own body from the grave; however, burial is not ever explicitly mandated in the canon of scripture.  Some say the Bible indicates our body is a physical tent for sojourning upon earth; once we get to heaven, resurrected like Christ, a new spiritual body will be given to us in a spiritual formation of some sort, as Jesus Christ exists, including our soul. Therefore, the conclusion is easily reached that our physical body at death is simply just an empty shell without the Holy Spirit or our soul; therefore, cremation does not matter to God in any way because it is just a shell void of any physical life.

God did say, after Adam sinned in Genesis, ruining the state of perfection of man and the universe, that man would return to the ground as dust:

 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19 KJV)

Does this mean the physical body will deteriorate unto dust, or can the dust created in the process of cremation also be considered by some as viable to fit within the confines of this scripture verse?   Death was not a part of the original plan or perfect will of God. Death is an anomalous condition, tearing apart what God Himself created perfectly and fused together in heavenly harmony. God originally intended for our physical bodies to last as long as our souls.  Our bodies would have lasted as they were created perfectly, but not with the addition of sin and wickedness. God clearly sees sin as unnatural, wicked, and undesirable. 

We are integrated beings, made of body, soul, and spirit, or a trichotomy. That’s why the bodily resurrection of the dead and rejoining of their soul and spirit is vital in becoming perfectly Christ-like entering into a state of perfection in the eternal realm.   For other religions not based upon biblical teachings, this unity of soul and spirit is not necessary at all or not even an essential part of their belief system not based upon the clear foundation presented in the Bible.

Some may look into history pointing their fingers towards The Book of Common Prayer, used as a common funeral resource by Church of England in the 1920s, as a starting point of cremation becoming more readily accepted.  This theory is not set in stone, or viable as a fact of truth but merely man’s opinion as to the starting point of cremation becoming more commonplace.  This book did, however, introduce other unsound biblical practices. 

The mention of fire and burning does appear in the Bible alongside common death.  Death by fire is recorded in scripture but is not portrayed in a good light or as a good ending to one’s life; rather it is depicted as undesirable and used as an end to an evil and wicked lifestyle or in sacrifice to other gods.  Burning in the fires of Hell is certainly an example of an undesirable eternal end point culminating with fire but, as the Bible clearly states, is the wages of sin, as a curse or punishment; it is never portrayed as a blessing. 

For thus saith the LORD, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the LORD, even lovingkindness and mercies. Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them: Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother. (Jeremiah 16:5-7 KJV)

And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. (Genesis 38:24 KJV)

Judah called for Tamar to be burned for her salacious and ungodly lifestyle.  It is important to note that she was a woman who was included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ without regard to her sin-stained past.

 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you. (Leviticus 20:14 KJV)

And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. (Numbers 16:35 KJV)

Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel. (Joshua 7:13-15 KJV)

The only case of bodies being burned in Israel and is recorded in the preceding verse from the book of Joshua.  Aachen and his family were stoned to death, and their bodies were also ordered to be burned because of their horrible sin of dishonesty and rebellion against God. Burning a body was a clear demonstration of God’s fierce anger.  God was righteously angry with them because of sin and disobedience. This instance was the only recorded scripture of bodies burned in Israel in this manner.

Other recordings of bodies being burned in scripture:

And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul; All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.(1 Samuel 31:11-13 KJV)

And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.(1Kings 21:5-6 KJV)

The practice of witchcraft and divination has pagan ties to fire and burning.  God clearly illustrated His dislike and anger against these practices in ancient biblical times.  Perhaps these ancient practices of pagan burnings were gradually more accepted or tolerated throughout time making them more widely accepted today without regard to any ties to pagan roots.

And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. (2 Kings 23:16-18 KJV)

The preceding verse was the only mention of burning human bones upon the altar I could find.  God said that this act defiled or polluted the altar clearly strong words aligning the burning of bodies with desecration and wickedness, not holiness.

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:(Amos 2:1 KJV)

In Old Testament times only bodies of criminals were burned for their crimes, but not upon the altar. The place of this cremation was the garbage dump in the Valley of Hinnom which was located just outside the walls of the Holy City of Jerusalem. In ancient biblical times these human sacrifices were offered to gods:

For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them. Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. (2 Chronicles 33:3-6 KJV)

 

Burning was the symbol of shame and disgrace and hanging criminals to death was evidently more common than burning, just as Jesus Christ was hung to death innocently between two criminals  The Bible gives us many details about what happened after His body was removed from the cross. His body was wrapped in linen and carefully placed in a borrowed tomb. Mary and others were to embalm God with spices and ointment after He was placed in the grave.  Such great care was taken for His physical body, perhaps as an example to mankind to follow in preparation for death for all bodies? 

Our identification with Christ in His death is said to be a “burial”

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 KJV)

Every believer’s scriptural baptism is an illustration of this new life and spiritual relationship in Christ. Cremation, therefore, can be likened to a distortion of the Truth of Scripture of the death and burial of Jesus Christ.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ means we serve a risen Savior, who was raised from the grave after being buried upon his succumbing to physical death.  He was not subject to remain on the cross, for His work was finished.  Man who has been quickened alive will also be resurrected one day unto the eternal realm when Jesus returns.  

Man, therefore, can find great meaning for Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection figuratively and literally.

The grave or burial place is a set location for mourners to visit, comforting for those still living to visit in remembrance of the loved one that has died.

Jesus even visited the grave of Lazarus:

The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying,  She goeth unto the grave to weep there.  (John 11:31 KJV)

And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. (John 11:34-35 KJV)

The greatest example of mourning was when Jesus visited the grave of Lazarus, which greatly affected Jesus emotionally.  Jesus openly wept at the tomb of Lazarus. This biblical illustration of visiting a close friend or relative’s gravesite can certainly be an example for us to follow in our mourning process.Here is a verse which clearly indicates preservation of all three elements: the body, soul, and spirit.  The act of cremation certainly would not preserve the physical body in any way, but rather would annihilate or destroy it; however, this would not limit an all-powerful God from resurrecting a body which was destroyed.

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV)

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1 KJV)

This verse states “If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved…”, and seems to allow for situations where the physical body is destroyed or gravely maimed at death: a car accident, bombing, plane wreck, horrendous murder, or wicked persecution against a physical body.  These scenarios do happen, and a person’s physical body can be destroyed or suffer grave damage.  This verse provides much comfort for God’s spiritual family knowing in these types of situations that an eternal body is waiting in heaven.

Caves were often used as tombs in both the New Testament and the Old Testament. Abraham buried Sara in a cave.  Jesus was buried in a cave, a borrowed cave, as He owned not a thing, not even a place for a proper burial. 

Biblical examples of cremation:

Three examples of cremation as a punishment for crime occur in Genesis 38:24 and Leviticus 20:4 and 21:9.

And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire. (Leviticus 21:9 KJV)

1 Samuel 31:11-15 records the cremation of King Saul’s body by his troops.

All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. (1 Samuel 31:12 KJV)

The exact reason for this cremation is unknown, and consequently, there are some opinions as to why. It seems mostly that they burned his body either because decay had already set in or to make it easier to carry his bones home (apparently the fire was not hot enough to completely turn the bones to ashes and flesh was still hanging upon the bones). This particular incident is an important example because later in 2 Samuel 1:15 David is angry over the killing of the Lord’s anointed, Saul. So he has Saul’s murderer killed, but David never expresses anger over the cremation of Saul.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3 KJV)

Persecutors or oppressors of the early church burned the bodies of the Christian martyrs as a mockery of the resurrection.  A mockery, or a contrast to a holy God, lining up with the wickedness of the god of this world. Is the burning of bodies a mockery of God and His Word today? Some individuals will conclude since every person’s body will be resurrected at God’s appointed time.  Whether it be in the clouds, in His kingdom at physical death, or on judgment day, it does not matter if the body was buried, cremated, or left to rot to the bone in an open field.  God ultimately has the power to resurrect people regardless of how their body was taken care of in death. 

A person might further surmise it is not clearly stated in God’s Word in precise terms that cremation is definitively wrong.  Those same persons may contend that coming out staunchly against cremation would be creating a rule based on man’s reasoning that God never intended be applied.

Legalism is the instituting of a principle, practice, or precept that a person or group of people claim that we should follow for spiritual reasons and that God did not implicitly state anything in His scripture regarding it. The Pharisees are an example of a biblical group of self-righteous men who brought about many religious rules and rituals above those God established in His Word.  The practice twists God’s inspired Word into what man reasons it to state.  Many operate in their lives in self-righteous fashion today, changing God’s Word. 

The Bible does not decree any one single way of handling bodies, however the act of cremation is rooted in Eastern (Buddhist and Hindu beliefs) and does not come from a Christian background. Often burial customs of varying nationalities and people groups tend to closely follow beliefs about the afterlife.  Cremation is rooted in an Eastern dualism in which the goal is not the resurrection of the body but for escaping the cycle of rebirth.  The body is destroyed by fire as a part of stopping that process of coming back to life, which those who believe in God know for sure is a false teaching.

Another possible argument is that without any direct command from God to bury or how to bury, burial is still the mandatory method because it shows a testimony concerning the resurrection of the body.

In the future Battle of Armageddon, the Bible says there will be so many dead bodies that they will be left unburied to be eaten by the birds and animals (Jer. 7:33; Rev. 19:21). The bride of Christ has already been removed to the eternal realm at this point, and those who followed after wickedness are the only ones left upon the earth. 

History in other written records tells us the Egyptians usually buried their dead and even went so far as to embalm some of them elaborately. The Persians were sometimes said to expose their dead in the open air allowing them to rot openly and decompose. The ancient Greeks were said too early on practice burial, but later widely adopted the practice of cremation as well. The Romans often preferred burial but chose cremation as well.

In Jerusalem, during the Roman era, there is some evidence that the bodies of criminals were occasionally thrown into the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem in a garbage dump and burned.  This was an area of continual burning fires dedicated to pagan gods where young children were passed through the flames in reverence to pagan gods.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9:10 KJV)

Solomon, who became a wise man, was inspired to write about the grave near the end of his life. No matter how dead bodies are handled, eventually they go back to dust. 

This verse should make us pause after reading it for a moment:

And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him. And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass. And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him. (1 Kings 13:27-29 KJV)

It seems to be quite an undertaking to pick up a rotting corpse and bring it back for proper burial if burial was an unnecessary act. 

 

For Further Contemplation: 

The Word of God speaks to me very clearly on this subject of cremation, both by direct statements and through example.  As Christians, we are not permitted to do with our bodies as we please.  Indeed, we are challenged to exalt Jesus Christ in our bodies, whether in life or by death.

The Bible does distinguish between our earthly physical bodies and our heavenly spiritual bodies to come; both are manifested by God for His purposes, whether on earth or in heaven.

Romans chapter thirteen goes into great detail about Christian liberty and free will of each man.  God does not precisely give us explicate details regarding all situations of life, but always lays the proper groundwork for us to make biblically sound conclusions and choices by applying scripture as taught within the entire canon of God’s Word. He does not want us to use man’s faulty reasoning, or to pick and choose verses out of context and apply them outside of the flow and meaning of the entire Bible collectively.

In conclusion, each person must ask himself:   Is cremation in the realm of Christian freedom and personal conviction?  Or does the Bible explicitly forbid the practice of cremation? I believe cremation is not biblical.

 

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