IS CREMATION O.K. FOR CHRISTIANS?
Cremation is a topic that is not talked about a lot in public and so there is great deal of confusion about it in the church. According to the Cremation Society of North America, in 2000, 25% of all dead bodies were cremated and in 2010 it increased to 38% because it is more economical (1-2,000 vs. 6-8,000), efficient and environmentally friendly. Some think it’s O.K. to cremate claiming that it is my body and I will do with it what I want. Others feel a Christian should never consider cremation because of its ties to atheism, heathenism and ignorance with regards to the Bible. So, we need to know as Christians what the Bible says about it and whether it is O.K. to cremate or not.
In the Old Testament, some say it is wrong to cremate because: Gen. 19:24 states the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire. Also, some claim that burning the body is associated with wickedness such as the case in Lev. 20:14, which states, “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.” Furthermore, in Num. 16:35, God exterminated Korah and 250 Israelite men with fire because they opposed Moses.
In the New Testament some say it is wrong to cremate because we associate burning with the lake of fire that all the wicked will be cast into and will burn for eternity (Rev. 20:10-15). But, these things have to do with punishing those that were breaking God’s Law. What about the righteous when they die?
When the righteous died, the Bible shows that it was the custom to bury the body. Gen. 25:10, There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife. Gen. 35:19, Rachel died and was buried. Gen. 35:29, Isaac breathed his last and died and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Moses was buried by God in Deut. 34:6. Even in difficult circumstances God's people kept Joseph’s bones for over 400 years until they buried him in the promise land (Josh. 24:32).
In the New Testament: John the Baptist was buried (Matt. 14:10-12). Ananias and Sapphira was buried (Acts 5:5-10). Stephen was buried (Acts 8:2). And, Jesus, our great Example, was buried (Jn. 19:38-42). Burial was the most common way that a person’s body was dealt with and it was and still is considered as an act of kindness and respect.
Now, some have the strange idea that if your body is burned that it will somehow affect your resurrection. The Moravians bury with their feet pointing to Jerusalem because they believe when the Lord returns and establishes his kingdom (which he has already done), their physical bodies will be resurrected and all will be looking toward Jerusalem. But, there are no Scriptures for this practice. In fact, Eccl. 12:7 states, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Also, in Matt. 10:28 it suggest that 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 person’s soul. Besides, what about Christians who have been burned to death? Are we saying that they do not get to resurrect because they no longer have a physical body? How strange.
The Scriptures show that God is more interested in the Spirit than the physical (2 Cor. 5:1; 1 Cor. 15:55-57). But, I would also like to point out that in the Bible, people knew where the righteous were buried and it reminds me of a restoration trip my wife and I went on while in MSOP. I saw tombstones of Christians that had Bibles and Scriptures all over them, one tombstone was completely made into a Bible with Mk. 16:15 written on it, another I found said a “minister of the gospel of Christ,” another that said, “An elder of the church of Christ” and so many more. I found that impressive because their tombstones are teaching about God long after they are gone.
David Sain is a great proclaimer of the Gospel once told me that when he visits a town for a Gospel meeting or has some time on his hands, he will walk through the cemetery of that town and reads the tombstones. He often wanders if those departed souls every heard the Gospel? And, many times he does not know because there is little there to tell him if one was a Christian or not. Why, even if you go to the cemetery in the local towns around you, almost all of the tombstones have nothing to do with what religion they were.
Again, while the Scriptures show that people were buried, it is a custom that has gone down throughout time. I do not see the command to bury, but if you do bury, make sure that all others who pass by your grave, know that you are a Christian because precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints and the world needs to know this truth.