What about cremation?
Cremation is a topic that is not talked about a lot and so there is great deal of confusion about it in the church. Some think that is ok to do, while others feel that it should not be done at all. So this lesson is designed to answer this very question, ďIs cremation a scriptural way to deal with a dead body?Ē †
According to the Cremation Society of North America, in 2000 25.5% of all dead bodies were cremated.† The projected figure for 2010 is that 40% of Americans will choose cremation as a funeral method. The reason why cremation is becoming more popular is because it is more economical, efficient and environmentally friendly.† The average funeral today cost between 6,000 and 8,000 dollars.† However, a cremation service cost about one fifth of that amount (1,000-2,000). Another method that is free is donating your body to science so that future doctors can learn how to perform surgeries and learn about the inner workings of a human body. After they are finished with the body they will cremate it and give you back the remains upon request.
Since cremation is becoming more popular and it more economical we need to know as Christians what the Bible says about it and whether we should do it. Those who oppose the idea of cremation will many times go to the Old Testament and look at all the negative aspects of burning a personís body and they will allow these instances to influence them to believe that cremation is wrong. Now we donít have time to look at every instance of cremation in the Old Testament, but we are going to look a quite few of them.
As we examine these verses you will be able to understand why some will come to the conclusion that cremation by fire just doesnít seem right.
Genesis 19:24 †Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.
Genesis 38:24 And it
came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying,
"Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with
child by harlotry." So
She was actual pregnant with twins and her being burned was a form a punishment, but this did not happen when Judah learned more about this circumstance.
Exodus 32:20 Then he
took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it
to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of
Here burning is associated with destroying that which is wicked.
Leviticus 20:14 'If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.
Leviticus 21:9 'The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire.
Leviticus 10:1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.† 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
God exterminated Korah and 250 Israelite men with fire because they opposed Moses.
Numbers 16:35 †And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.
Deuteronomy 7:25 "You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.
Here we see that God wanted all idols destroyed with fire because they were an abomination to Him.
After Joshua had defeated Jericho, nothing was to be taken from that place, but someone did and caused them not to be able to defeat the next city they went to and so Joshua finds out that there is sin in the camp and he begins to question everyone to find out who broke Godís command and took something from Jericho. The punishment for this sin is laid out in.
Joshua 7:15 'Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.' "
Joshua 7:24 Then
Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the
garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his
sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of
Achor.† 25 And Joshua said,
"Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day." So
Another example comes from king Josiah who was doing his best to restore the Jews back to following the Law of God. There was prophecy made about him back 1 Kings 13:1-2 that was made by an unnamed man of God.
1 Kings 13:1 And
behold, a man of God went from
This prophecy was fulfilled and can be read in 2 Kings 23:16-20. Here we can see the burning of these priest bones were used to defile this alter that had been used to worship a false God.
2 Kings 16:3 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel.
Now we could look at more passages like these in the Old Testament that say similar things and we should be able to understand why some would have a negative outlook toward cremation since it was used to destroy wickedness or to punish it and was used a form of worship by some of those following after false God.
Even when you get into the New Testament a person can associate fire with lake of fire that all the wicked will be cast into and will burn for eternity. But, you need to understand that all these instances that we have looked at had to do with destroying idols or punishing those that that were breaking Godís Law or what was used by those following after a false God and they have nothing do with what was done to a righteous personís body when they died.
However, you find as look through the Bible that most of the time the custom was to bury the body of those who had passed away.
Genesis 25:8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.† 9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave Ö
Genesis 25:10 Ö There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife. †
Genesis 35:19 ††So Rachel died and was buried
Genesis 35:29 †So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Gen. 50 Joseph had his father Jacob embalmed and they buried him.
Then we find out that
when Joseph died that the children of
Moses was buried by God Deuteronomy 34:6† And He
buried him in a valley in the
Matthew 14:10-12: John the Baptist
Acts 5:5-10: Ananias and Sapphira
Acts 8:2: Stephen
Burial was the most common way that a personís body was dealt with and the Old Testament and it was considered as act of kindness an respect.
2 Samuel 2:4 Then
the men of
We also learn that unburied body was considered a defilement to the land by God.
Deuteronomy 21:22 " If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,† 23 "his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God. †
There are many examples of those that went against Godís Law and they were not allowed to have a proper burial. Instead, they were would be left on top of the ground to be eaten by animals and birds.
This happened to the man of God who wasnít supposed to stop and eat with anyone in 1 Kings 13. When he did, he finds out that he will not be buried in his father tombs and when he went on his way a lion came by and attacked him and killed him.
This also happened to Jezebel
2 Kings 9:35 So they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands.† 36 Therefore they came back and told him. And he said, "This is the word of the LORD, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 'On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel;† 37 'and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as refuse on the surface of the field, in the plot at Jezreel, so that they shall not say, "Here lies Jezebel." ' "
Jeremiah pronounced a curse on some Israelites that involved them not being buried.
Jeremiah 16:6 "Both the great and the small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried;
He also made a similar prophecy about King Jehoiakim.
Jeremiah 22:19 He
shall be buried with the burial of a donkey, Dragged and cast out beyond the
If all we knew about cremation was found in these verses that we have looked at so far we might all come to conclusion that cremation is not for the Christian. However, I now want to show you that there is nothing wrong with cremation and that it doesnít matter how a personís body is disposed.
One thing we have to keep in mind is that a person would have to go to the Old Testament to build a case against cremation. As Christians in the Lordís church we should know that those things found in the Old Testament are not binding to us today. So, even if we had a direct command in the Old Testament that said you shall not cremate a body that law would not apply to us today unless it was restated in the New Testament.
You can search the New Testament from beginning to end and you will not find a command condemning the practice of cremation. While the OT looks at burning the body in a negative way there are a couple of passages that show that it became a common practice at one point and that it could be done in a positive way.
Letís revisit part of a passage that we looked at earlier.
2 Samuel 2:4 Then
the men of
Notice David is commending these men for showing kindness to Saul and burying him. If you will remember from 1 Sam. 31 Saul commits suicide and he and 3 of his sons die that die and the Philistines come along and strip them of their armor and they cut off Saulís head and attach him and his sons to the wall.
1 Samuel 31:11 Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul,† 12 all the valiant men arose and traveled all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth Shan; and they came to Jabesh and burned them there.† 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
Here we find out that they burned Saul and his sons first and then they buried them. They did not burn these bodies to punish them, but they did it out of necessity and it was part of the burial service and it was considered showing kindness.
Another passage that is overlooked by many in the OT is,
Amos 6:9 Then it shall come to pass, that if ten men remain in one house, they shall die.† 10 And when a relative of the dead, with one who will burn the bodies, picks up the bodies to take them out of the house, he will say to one inside the house, "Are there any more with you?" Then someone will say, "None." And he will say, "Hold your tongue! For we dare not mention the name of the LORD."
In this chapter Amos is proclaiming a warning of not being at ease, but in this warning he reveals that these Jews at this time were in the practice of burning those that had died. So, this is two examples from the OT that show that cremation was done and it could be done in way that was considered to be kind.
Some have the idea that if your body is burned that it will somehow affect your resurrection, but this simply is not true even the OT teaches this.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 ††Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
In this passage he is talking about how bodies will return to dust, but our spirit will return to God. In very similar way Jesus said,
Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
We should not worry about what happens to our bodies because no matter what a person does to it, they cannot do anything to a personís soul. So, whether our bodies turn to dust over 1000 years or quickly from a fire is not going to affect our resurrection one bit. If it did, then what those Christians that have been burned to death for the cause of Christ or for those that have been caught in house fire? If we are going to say that burning the body is going affect our resurrection, then we are going to have to say that those Christians whose bodies were destroyed in this way are going to be affected as well.
Another good point can be made from,
1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
If there was something sinful or wrong about the burning of a body or that it would affect your resurrection, then why does Paul talk about giving His body to be burned? Its because there is nothing wrong with it. So, whether you decide to buried the traditional way or you are cremated does not matter. Itís up to you because there is nothing scriptural wrong with doing either in the New Testament and it will by no means affect your resurrection because if God could create us from dust, he can certainly resurrect and transform our physical body into an everlasting spiritual body no matter what the condition of our body may be.
So, lets stop worrying about how our body is disposed and lets focus our attention on how we living our life for God and how we are using our body to serve God.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.† 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.