2010-08-04 - Cremation
The Summer Question Series, 2004 #4
Originally Published 2004-06-22
Genesis 3:19, By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Just a note on the questions: I have enjoyed reading them and encourage you to continue to send them. The question today came in last week, so it is never too late. A lot of the questions fall into the general category of "relationships," and these are very difficult for me to answer because of the impersonal nature of e-mail. I may take a stab at some of them, but I would rather remain silent in some cases, than to speak into a situation with which I only know one side and have no real personal exposure. Onto the question:
"Thank you so much for all your devotionals. I really enjoy reading them. They are truly encouragement to me as I grow in my spiritual walk. I have a question for you. What does the Bible say about cremation? I know that a lot of Christians don't believe it is right. Is there anything in the Bible to say that it is definitely wrong?"
It was the common practice of the Jews, and then of the Christian church, to bury their dead. However, there is no Bible injunction against cremation. We have examples all over Scripture of burials and funerals. Rather than provide you with numerous references to show this, it is much easier to say,"see Bible." It was considered dishonorable to be unburied. Being buried was so important, that even criminals who were executed were given this right by law, Deuteronomy 21:22,23.
While burial is the overwhelming custom we find in the Bible, cremation is found and not condemned in some instances. In Leviticus 20:14, we find that if a man married a woman and her daughter, all three were to burned with fire.
In Leviticus 21:9, a daughter of a priest who became a harlot was to be burned. However, burning of bodies was not always for crimes. King Saul and his sons were killed in battle against the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31. In verse12, we read that they were burned at Jabesh. In the time of war, there was not always time for a burial, even for a king.
When God sent plague in Amos 4, it is thought that the stench that was in the camp (verse 10) was the burning of the bodies of the dead, because so many had died, that there was no practical way to bury them all before they started to decay and become as great a problem as the plague itself. In none of these situations was the burning of the dead condemned. In fact, in Levitucus, it was commanded in certain circumstances. However, the normal practice in Scripture is internment in the ground, of the dead body.
Scripture tells us time and again of a bodily resurrection. Enoch and Elijah went to heaven with their bodies. When Lazararus was raised from the deadby Christ, he was raised bodily. The daughter of Jarius was also raised bodily. Jesus was raised bodily. Remember when He said to Thomas, "reach here your hand, and put it into My side," John 20:27? But I don't think that it matters, in the resurrection, if the bodies that are raised have been burned, cut up and parts moved from place to place as they did with the martyrs, or buried.
God created the world from nothing. He can certainly raise bodies and put them together again, no matter how they have been disposed of.
I was reading weeks ago, before this question came, in a section of a book that hit on this topic. The author mentioned something I will never forget, especially when I visit the ocean. He said, considering how many had died at sea, that you could not put your foot into the ocean without encountering a molecule of someone who had died at sea. That is kind of a morbid thought in more ways than one, but the point is that God is able to raise even these bodies in the resurrection. So my conclusion is that if you end up leaving this earthly existence in a fire, being buried with a marker in a grave, in a vase on someone's fire place, or buried at sea when the QE2 sinks, it matters not. The Lord will raise the body and unite it to the soul in the resurrection.
Soli Deo Gloria,