Cremation

            The topic of cremation (the burning of a physical body following one’s death) has been viewed by many in various ways.  There are several scriptures and secular history references to consider such as the following:

   1) Josh 7:15, etc., "shall be burnt with fire"; is no doubt reference after he had been put to death by stoning (Josh 7:25; Lev 20:14).

   2) 1 Cor 13:3, "If I give my body to be burned and do not possess love it is all in vain".  When Paul speaks of giving his body to be burned, he is simply accommodating his language to the customs of Corinth.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were indeed thrown into a fiery furnace, because they were worshippers of the true God; but they were not consumed in the flame, Dan 3:19-26; compare Heb 11:34. Though Christians were early persecuted, there is no evidence that they were burned as martyrs as early as this Epistle was written. Nero was the first who is believed to have committed this horrible act; and under his reign, and during the persecution under his rule, Christians were covered with pitch, and set on fire to illuminate his gardens. 

   3) Cremation, was a customary practice of the ancient Greeks, and it was not unknown among the Romans.  It was certainly not the ordinary method of disposing of the dead among the Hebrews or other oriental peoples. Even among the Greeks, bodies were often buried without being burned.  Cicero thought that burial was the more ancient practice, though among the Romans both methods were in use in his day, while the Greeks burned their dead, the Persians buried them.  

  4) In the case supposed by Amos (Amos 6:8-10), when it is predicted that Yahweh or Jehovah in dislike of "the excellency of Jacob," shall "deliver up the city," and, "if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die," and "a man's kinsman shall take him up, even he that burneth him," etc., the suggestion seems to be that of pestilence with accompanying infection, and that this, or the special judgment of Yahweh, is why burning is preferred.

   5) How far religious, or sanitary, or practical reasons were influential in deciding between the different methods, it is impossible to say. That bodies were burned in times of pestilence or epidemic in the Valley of Hinnom at Jerusalem is without support (see Ezek 39:11-16). The "very great burning" at the burial of Asa (2 Chron 16:14) is not a case of cremation, but of burning spices and furniture in the king's honor (compare Jer. 34:5). Nor is 1 Kings 13:2.  It is simply a prophecy of a king who shall take the bones of men previously buried, and the priests of the high places that burn incense in false worship, and cause them to be burned on the defiled altar to further pollute it and render it contemptible.

 

  6) There is in the New Testament no instance of cremation, Jewish, heathen or Christian, and clearly the early Christians followed the Jewish practice of burying the dead (see Tert., Apol., xlii; Minuc. Felix, Octav., xxxix; Aug., De civ. Dei, i.12,13). Cremation has never been popular among Christians, owing largely, doubtless, to the natural influence of the example of the Jews, the unquestionable fact that Christ was buried, the intense hope of the resurrection and the more or less material views concerning it predominant here and there at this time or that.

While there is  nothing anti-Christian in cremation,  and much in sanitary considerations to call for it in an age of science, it is not likely that it will ever become the predominant practice of Christendom. (See International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

 Conclusion:

                 We read in Genesis 2:7 that man was created physically by God from the dust of the earth and in Genesis 3:19 we read that man will return to the earth at death (referring to his body, which is comprised of the earth’s chemicals.  Paul in II Cor. 5:8 states that his desire was to depart his earthly physical body and go to be with his Lord.  In I Cor. 15:44 we are promised to acquire a new body which does not have the human limitations which we now have.       

             Often a person will ask if it is sinful to offer our physical body’s organs to another either while we are living or upon our death.  This Bible student’s conviction is as follows:  Our bodies and our total lives are a gift from God, whether healthy or feeble.  This world is not our home - we are just passing through.  Therefore, we need to take good care of our bodies (I Cor. 6:19,20), but yet understand that we are getting new ones for our heavenly home.  The person who has a sharing spirit, even with their body parts, is a person who I am convinced that God is pleased with their attitudes concerning the matter.

             One can move from one country to another and strive to take care of themselves (vitamins, exercise, etc.) and yet physical death catches up with everyone.  The decision as to how one wants to be “laid away” is  personal.  As with a wedding, some choose a “big to do” while others want a very private one.  The average  cost of a funeral in most communities in the U.S.A. at this writing is $5,500 to $7,000.  In addition to this there is a burial plot to purchase and often a tombstone.  Most would agree that one needs a period of  “acceptance of the death of a loved one” (bereavement).  This is the purpose of what is called a “Visitation Period”.  Then, the “Memorial Service” and the “Committal Service” is the final farewell of the deceased.  Some make the decision to avoid the above three steps and plan on cremation.  Others will request a “Visitation Period” and a “Memorial Service”, but then plan on a private “Cremation Service”, which is far cheaper.  Some will plan on having their cremains (ashes) to be placed in an urn in a mausoleum while others want to dispose of them from an airplane or take them home and place them on a mantel.

             One’s choice in planning his funeral is personal, whether it be an American traditional one or a private one with no visitation or memorial service, and no cemetery lot or tombstone, but only an obituary notice in the newspaper and a cremation of the physical body.

             Some have criticized cremation stating that when Jesus returns the graves are to open and the dead are to come out (I Cor. 15) and there will not be anybody to raise and come forth.  Now, the God of  creation has a way of taking care of this.  During WW II there were a multitude of U.S. military who “went down with the ship” in the various oceans.  They became fish food and those fish became food for larger fish.  Now, how are these bodies going to raise?  Let’s leave it to God.  He will handle this.  No, cremation is not a sin.

   Plainly, don’t get short changed.  Let’s be ready to meet our Maker.  The Bible teaches that to avoid hell and gain heaven - one must:

1) Believe In Jesus As Savior (16:31) 

2) Repent Of Sins  (17:30)  

3) Confess Christ Audibly (8:37) 

4) Be Baptized In  Water (2:38)  

5) Live A  Christian Life (14:22)  

6) Be Active In the Church (2:47)

Posted in Articles By Brother Hoyt.