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Cremation - Is it really such a good idea? Created 15 March 2014

Is cremation a godly act? I am very much unconvinced.

Few amongst us like to think about death. Well, it's going to happen, so the truly intelligent thing to do is to think about it before it happens. The Christian faith prepares us for life after death. It even prepares us for life before death. But how about death and the actual deceased body of a person? It seems wholly irrelevant in the greater scheme of things, doesn't it.

I've read the Bible for a number of years now and I have come to understand that we are saved by faith alone[1]. And, that 'He will never leave us nor forsake us' (Heb 13:5). But, how will God deal with those who have been saved yet who have transgressed in areas where He warns us not to overstep the mark? How will God deal with those who:

I do not know the answer to these questions. So, I've asked this question about cremation from ordinary Christians as well as some rather well-informed people, and the consensus seems to be one of two answers:

1) Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39). Therefore, if you're saved it makes no difference as to whether or not you are buried or cremated. God doesn't care.
2) God can do anything (Job 42:2) including resurrecting a person from their ashes. Otherwise, what about all those who have died as a result of bomb blasts and infernos?

But, for me, these answers do not settle the question. You see, they focus on what God can do and what ungodliness cannot. They don't answer the question about what God's way is in these type of things.

Let's look at it in another way: given that the life and body of a believer belongs to God[2] - it is His temple - what gives the believer the right to reduce it to ashes? Do you and I who have given our lives to the Lord, inclusive of our personal preferences, ambitions, career plans, comforts, grudges, prejudices, hurts, ... and natural body have the right to do with it - our body - as we please, or is that God's prerogative? Can we make a decision that we have supposedly already handed over to Him to make? Personally I think it is God's prerogative.

There is no doubt that He can resurrect every believer who over millennia has been subjected to involuntary or circumstantial cremation: the Twin Towers on 9/11, combat troops in the many wars that have been fought, cities that have been burnt down, Christians who were burnt at the stake, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the list goes on.  But, given that He permitted[3] such deaths to occur, He sanctioned such cremations as well. So, in such cases, God exercised His will, or He permitted the consequences of earthly dynamics.

But when believers assume the right to order a cremation, albeit via their last will and testament, they may very well assume a right that is actually not their own to exercise. First, let's look at whether or not dead bodies have any significance in the Bible:

1) Joseph gave an instruction (not a request) to have his bones dug up and reburied in the Promised land (Refer Jos 24:32). If there had been no spiritual or natural significance to his bones why on earth would his decendants be compelled under a "solemn oath" to reburry them in another place than where they had been laid to rest in the first place?

2) God buried Moses (Refer Deut 34:5-6). Shall we deduct from this passage that this is God's way in dealing with dead bodies? Remember, He can do anything, right? He can could have cremated Moses if He really wanted to. Seemingly He did not want to.

3) Moses' bones seemingly had great spiritual (and perhaps even natural) significance. Satan himself (not one of his cohorts) contended (fought in battle) for it, so he - Satan - really, really wanted it. We have to ask why? God, on the other hand, did not want him - Satan - to have it. Again, we have to ask why? We can only conclude that a person's bones - not their ashes - has significant meaning. Refer Jude 1:9.

4) In the sequence of events concerning Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, it is significant to note that His body was of great importance - either spiritually or naturally, or both. Firstly, His grave had never been used before (it was a 'poor man' that was buried in a 'rich man's grave')[4]; if a dead body had no meaning, then why was it important to bury Him in a 'new grave'? Secondly, following His resurrection it is significant to note that Jesus' body still had the scars from His crucifixion[5]. So, although it had been transformed (He was able to suddenly appear and disappear), God used His original body after His resurrection. Believers in Christ will likewise "rise with Christ"[6]. It strikes me as relevant and important, perhaps, to have your body available for resurrection (I offer no answer in terms of involuntary cremated believers, only that God possibly has a special way of dealing with these. We don't know). Lastly, I do not believe it is anything of a stretch to understand that of those who were raised from the dead upon Christ's resurrection[7] all were raised in their buried bodies.

Now let's look at a few selected verses in the Bible about how God views death, the remains of a person and cremation: You may be surprised, as I was, that the Bible actually addresses this issue:

Has Christ’s resurrection and ascension diminished or cancelled the apparent significance of the burning of bones as in the days of Moses, King Josiah and others? I cannot tell. But, personally, I am not willing of risk being an offence to God, especially given that He teaches us to learn from the Old Testament to understand what His ways are - so that the people of God may be “complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I have tried to put Scripture in front of you to help you with your decision concerning cremation. Now it is up to you make up your own mind. I cannot advise either way except to say that you should not leave this to others to decide. You need to make a conscious decision about it yourself in accordance with Scripture.

FURTHER READING:

FOOTNOTES:

[1] It is my firm belief that true faith can only happen when a person has truly repented. Clich here for more information on this topic. [back]

[2] ... 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? (1 Cor 6:19) [back]

[3] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Mat 10:29-31) [back]

[4] And they[a] made His grave with the wicked - But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (Is 53:9)

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby. (John 19:38-42) [back]

[5] 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:27) [back]

[6] 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thes 4:16) [back]

[7] 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Mat 27:51-53) [back]

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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