Is Cremation Biblical?
Cremation is the burning of a dead body by mechanical, thermal, or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to mere bone fragments. Cremation also includes processing and pulverization of the bone fragments into pieces that are usually no more than 1/8 of an inch, more like powder.
The following are Biblical reasons why cremation should not be practiced or endorsed by Christians.
1. God indicates that we return to the same substance we were made of.
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen 3:19)
The Christian’s body belongs to God (1 Cor 6:19-20). The body is not ours to destroy by fire or by any other means (Rom 14:8).
2. God refers to cremation as wickedness to be severely punished (Am 2:1-5).
“Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:” (Am 2:1, ffs.)
3. God practices burial (De 34:5-6), and God the Son Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, was buried, and He is our great example (Jn 19:38-42).
4. Cremation is a sign of God’s curse. Throughout the Bible the destruction of a human body or of an object by fire is used as a sign of divine wrath (Ex 32:20; Lev 10:1-2; De 7:25; Nu 16:35; 2 Ki 10:26; 1 Ch 14:12; Ac 19:18-19; Rev 20:15).
5. Because God’s people have always practiced burial. For a person not to have a proper burial was considered a dishonour (1 Ki 21:23-24; Ps 83:9-10). In the Bible we find Abraham buried (Gen 25:8-10), Sarah buried (Gen 23:1-4), Rachel buried (Gen 35:19-20), Isaac buried (Gen 35:29), Jacob buried (Gen 49:33; 50:1-13), Joseph buried (Gen 50:26), Joshua buried (Jos 24:29-30), Eleazar buried (Jos 24:33), Samuel buried (1 Sam 25:1), David buried (1 Ki 2:10), John the Baptist buried (Matt 14:10-12), Ananias and Sapphira buried (Ac 5:5-10), Stephen buried (Ac 8:2), etc, while no examples exist of believers being cremated. Rom 15:4 and 1 Cor 10:11 tells us that we are to follow the Bible’s examples as well as its direct instructions.
Even in difficult circumstances burial was practiced by professing believers. For example, Joseph’s body was kept for around 400 years in Egypt and then carried through the 40 years of wilderness sojourn before being buried in the Promised Land. We read of this in Gen 50:24-25; Ex 13:19 and Jos 24:32. Wouldn’t it have been much simpler for the Israelites to have cremated Joseph, then carried his ashes with them in a tiny container? This they wouldn’t have done, nor even considered. Joseph, a follower of the one true and living God, a man who looked forward to the bodily resurrection, was given an honourable burial. From this important lesson, we learn that even if cremation is less expensive or easier than burial, it is still to be rejected, as the Israelites rejected the economical and simpler way to transport Joseph’s body.
6. Because burial looks forward to resurrection. Professing believers believe in a bodily resurrection (Rom 8:22-23; 1 Cor 15:20-23, 51-57; 2 Cor 5:1). Though the buried body will decompose in time, one day it will be raised to a new resurrection body (1 Jn 3:1-2). Though there may well be occasions and ways in which Christians die which render burial impossible—in the sinking of ships, in fires, etc, they should be buried when at all possible. It is Biblically true that the same individual will be raised in the same body, only changed. The physical body is called the seed for the resurrection body (1 Cor 15:35-44). When planted, a seed decomposes, and the new plant comes forth. The Bible uses this to illustrate resurrection. In 1 Cor 15:35-44 the Apostle answers those who would ask how it is possible for God to raise again a decomposed body. The terminology used by the Holy Spirit in this passage is that of husbandry—planting seed. The farmer plants the seed, and then from the decaying seed comes forth the new life. Such is burial and the resurrection. When a professing Christian is buried, the seed is planted for the resurrection body. It is a testimony of unwavering faith in God’s Word regarding the promise of bodily resurrection.
In contrast, the heathens have no such knowledge or hope. Hindus and Buddhists for instance, believe in reincarnation. Though they believe in a human soul which is distinct from the body, they do not believe that soul, once departed from the body at death, will be resurrected in any relation whatsoever to the first body. Rather they believe the soul will be reincarnated in another entirely unrelated body, or into a non-physical sphere of existence.
By the death and shed blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and only by this means, can a professing believer have the certain hope of a resurrection. Christ took upon Himself the punishment for our sins on the cross, by both His death and the shedding of His blood, nailing our sins to the cross, and was resurrected in eternal triumph three days later. When a sinner thoroughly acknowledges his sinfulness and wickedness before God, repents of his sin, that is turns from his sin, from himself by denying self and dying to self, turning from all idols including money and family, and receives Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour, the sin debt is paid, and eternal life and glory is promised from God the Father. Part of this new and eternal heritage in Christ is the glorified resurrection body.
7. The practice of cremation has a heathen origin and purpose. Why do heathen religions such as the Hindus and others, cremate? They do it in the belief that the dead are not raised again, whereas the Bible says there is a resurrection of the just and the unjust. The heathen practice cremation in the belief that the dead will be reincarnated; to destroy the body is sometimes considered a way of releasing the spirit of the deceased. Some practice cremation with the heathen idea that by destroying the body of the deceased the fear of that individual staying in the vicinity and haunting the loved ones is diminished.
This is not Biblical; it is pure paganism, and such is the practice of cremation.
In closing, just as the Lord Jesus Christ was buried in certainty that He would rise again on the third day according to the Scriptures, even so is the Christian said to rest at death. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, as the Apostle Paul testified (2 Cor 5:9 and Phil 1:21-23). The body without the spirit is dead (Jam 2:26). The dead body sleeps in the grave while the redeemed soul waits in glory for the great resurrection day.
Though we know that the manner of one’s burial does not affect one’s salvation, this is obviously important since the Bible addresses it both directly and by principle, and we are convinced that professing Christians should take their directions and beliefs and practices upon the clear commands and examples of the Word of God.