In the last blog “Cremation: Is it Biblical Part 1,” we took our first look at cremation, and discussed why our society is doing it more and more.
I ask this simple question: is cremation Biblical, or is it just a manifestation of our present day “Christian culture?” To repeat, I am not trying to send fellow believers on a “guilt trip” about having cremated their loved ones. But I think a sober look is reasonable at the whole issue.
In Part 2, we will look at other Biblical examples of cremation, both Old and New Testament:
In a negative sense, people were “burnt up” with supernatural fire, but because of God’s utter displeasure with their sin. For example, the fire of the Lord burnt and consumed the complainers in Numbers 11:1-3. Cremation is performed as the consequence of sin.
God burnt the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to a crisp by raining down burning sulfur leaving nothing but a dense smoke rising from the land (Genesis 19:24,28). Pretty grim view of God’s judgment and how it was not meant to be. Cremation is the consequence of sin.
Two hundred and fifty men who rebelled against Moses and the Lord were destroyed by fire from the Lord in Numbers 16:35. How is that for heated judgment? Cremation is the consequence of sin.
Leviticus 20:14 and 21:9 both mention cremation as penalties for particular sins.
During the time of Joshua, God was so angry at Achan’s greed that He allowed the stoning death of he and his family and then they were cremated (Joshua 7:25-26). Again, cremation is the consequence of sin.
In 1 Kings 13:1-2, God punished the priests of Jeroboam by cremation for their golden calf worship. Fire sent by God burned up two companies of 50 men who were sent by the wicked King Ahaziah to capture Elijah, God’s prophet in 2 Kings 1:10-12. Cremation is the consequence of sin.
King Saul and his sons were said to have been cremated in 1 Samuel 31:11-12, but then their bones were later buried. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 says that Saul died “because he was not faithful to the Lord, he did not keep his word, he consulted psychics, and did not inquire of the Lord.” So the Lord, “put him to death.”
The minor prophet Amos records an interesting view of cremation. One of the four things that the Lord punished the pagan Moabites for in Amos 2:1-2 was “the Moabite king burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime.” The burning of an enemy corpse rendered honorable burial impossible.
New Testament views on cremation– in the book of Revelation, burning signifies the judgments of God in the final destruction of nonbelieving human beings and their systems of belief (see Revelation 18:8; regarding the “people of Babylon”).
Reading John 11:25, the faith of Martha and Mary in Jesus as the “resurrection and the life” would have been revoked had Lazarus’s dead body been cremated instead of buried in a tomb. Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may wake him out of sleep” (John 11:11).
Jesus’s death and burial were prophesized in Isaiah 53:9. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and then he rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
In John 19:40, “Then they took the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” After Jesus’ own resurrection, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept (dead underground) arose, and came out of the graves” (Matthew 27:52-53).
Natural sleep, where there is no consciousness until awakened, is a wonderful condition of those “who have fallen asleep in Jesus” as it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:14. After all, the word “cemetery” means “a place of sleeping.” A body in the grave honors this belief and strengthens our conviction in the hope of the resurrection of the physical body when the “dead in Christ shall rise first”(1 Thess. 4:16).
In his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul is aware of the Greeks’ and Romans’ common views of cremation. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul declares that the value of love far out passes any works that man can perform, including giving all you own to the poor or martyrdom by cremation.
When we are baptized, we are first buried under water into death as it says in Romans 6:4. “This was in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live anew life.”
Let a burial be our final resting place on the earth. By this, we rest in the hope of bodily resurrection because we will not be abandoned to the grave (Acts 2:26-27). The grave has lost its victory, and death its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Certainly, some people don’t have a choice when they die of what happens to their body. Of course, God can do anything in those situations to resurrect Christian bodies perfectly when the time comes. Because it will come….someday.
But if we have a conscious choice, should we keep our “bed” in the grave after we die physically?
I don’t see anything in the Bible that supports the positive value of cremation. It is only used in a “negative light.”
You may not like all of the examples of sin in the Old Testament that justified God’s awful judgments of fire and cremation. It is what it is. At the Second Coming of Christ, you will be witnesses of significantly more eternal judgment of sin. Get ready.