Cremation In The Bible
So, what does the Bible say about cremation? It may surprise you that the Bible contains no specific direction on the practice of cremation. However, there are instances where cremation is mentioned.
Having a proper burial for your recently departed was held with great importance during Biblical times. Most of us are aware of the great lengths ancient Egyptians went through to preserve the dead for their eternal journey, but the ancient Hebrews also took great care in preparing their dead for burial, as evident in John 19:39. In most cases, Jewish families buried their dead in caves and tombs when possible.
The practice of cremation is found throughout the Bible. The first time cremation is referenced as a burial practice is Samuel 1:31:
âWhen the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.â
Saul and his sons were cremated because burial was not possible. While ancient Hebrews and Egyptians traditionally buried their dead in tombs of some form, cremation was also an option when necessary.
What Does The King James Version Of The Bible Say About Cremation
Older translations of the Bible, such as the King James Version also reference cremation. The earliest we see this is in Genesis 3:19:
âIn 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.â
You are probably most familiar with the paraphrasing of the passage, âashes to ashes and dust to dust.â
These simple words carry a lot of meaning about the cyclical nature of life. We were formed from the earth by God, and upon death, we all return to it. Many people who choose cremation find comfort knowing that their body eventually returns to âashâ and âdustâ â becoming part of natureâs cycle again.
Also, in the King James Version of the Bible, two passages in Corinthians reference cremation. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, the apostle Paul writes,
âAnd though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.â
Again, nowhere in the passage is cremation frowned upon. The passage focuses not on how your body is treated after death but what good you did during your lifetime. We can see this sentiment again in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5:
âFor we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.â
A Funeral Is An Important Social Event In The Christian Community
A funeral for a Christian is a celebration of a promotion, which has already taken place. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. It is a testimony to our family and friends that we believe our deceased loved ones are not in the casket. According to scripture we are present with the Lord. I think it is unnecessary to spend lots and lots of money. So a Christian funeral has more to do with celebrating what has happened to the spirit. A Christian funeral should not be focused solely on the body of the person who died. The focus is on what we are proclaiming, that like Lazarus, we have only fallen asleep and we are waiting to be awakened .
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Cremation Options To Help The Living
Although not a biblical issue, many faiths prefer a traditional burial in order to comfort those left behind by the deceased. The opportunity to say a physical farewell to a loved one in a casket is important to many families and provides a certain sense of closure.
The dignity of the human body is also important for many people of faith, and the idea of burning someone immediately after death can be frightening to some.
Cremation providers are addressing these needs with options that allow for funeral services before or after cremation. If a viewing or visitation is the preferred choice, one can rent a casket for that purpose, and the body cremated afterward.
A newer trend in cremation services is green or eco-friendly cremations, which take a cleaner approach to the production of ashes.
Even more recent are water cremations which involve no flame at all. Instead, an alkali water solution is used as a natural decomposing agent for the body. For those concerned with the environmental impact of traditional burials, green cremation is an ideal plan.
The Body Is A Blessing
The human body was made with wonderful creation . We are all lucky to have such a body to use and take care of in this life. We simply get one body in this life. If we mistreat it or harm it, that will carry with us for our entire mortal existence. It is our duty to make the most of our time on earth.
We will all die eventually so it makes sense that we each do the research and planning ahead of time. There are a variety of options to consider when we die so doing the proper research and planning years ahead will save your family the headache and stress. In the meantime, let us all enjoy our lives.
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Does The Bible Say About Visiting Graves
The Bible even describes visiting graves in a gentle manner that honors the dead. The Bible records, “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath . Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.” . The phrase “to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb” indicates it was a continuing memorial and people were to visit and pause to reflect.
Where Did Christ Go After He Died And Before He Rose From The Dead
Some use Ephesians 4:7-10 to teach that Jesus went to hell or to Hades to release the prisoners held there and take them to heaven or into Gods presence. The idea is that before His death, all Old Testament believers were in Abrahams bosomthe paradise part of Hades. Hades or Sheol was seen as the place of the dead with three areas or compartments: the abyss or tartarus, the place of confinement for those demons who sinned in the days of Noah torments, the place of suffering for all unbelievers until the time of the resurrection of the unjust and the Great White Throne Judgment when they will be cast eternally into the lake of fire, and a third place separated by a great gulf , called Abrahams Bosom, the place of blessing for believers. Because Christ had not yet died to pay the penalty for their sin, they were not yet able to go directly into the presence of God. After His death, however, the barrier was removed and He took them out of prison and into Gods presence.
1 Peter 3:18-20 is another passage that is often used in this regard because it seems to refer to Christs spirit proclaiming His victory over death to those demons who were bound in the abyss. This passage could possibly refer to a glorious proclamation He made by His human spirit while His body lay in the grave, but Bible students and scholars are divided on this issue.
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Christian Views On Cremation
Christians give a high priority to the disposal of a body and have a great fear of making the wrong choice. Unfortunately, there is no precise instruction as to the right or wrong decision.
However, although Jesus did not give definitive answers, He did make reference to the disposal of the body. There is a compelling story that may ease your mind, which includes words spoken by Jesus in Luke 9:59-60
He said to another man, Follow me. But the man replied, Lord, first let me go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
This may seem to be a cold and harsh response, but Jesus was saying that his followers should give their full attention to Him and the disposal of the dead should not be a high priority.
Many Christians believe that it is not our physical bodies that will dwell in the house of the Lord.
What Is Proper Burial
IN LAST week’s edition, we learnt that giving proper burial to the dead is not necessarily securing a huge loan to enable the bereaved family to deposit the dead body in the morgue, rebuilding or renovating the old family house, mounting a gigantic billboard of the dead, inviting high-profile personalities, providing mourning clothes or providing assorted foods and drinks all in honour of the dead.
It is also not organizing solemn ‘wake-keeping’ for the dead where dirge hymns are sung officiated by bishops or apostles, getting the deceased person put in a casket and sent into the church auditorium for bishops to offer fervent prayers of intercession for the salvation of his soul or arranging for men of God to dress in decent mourning clothes and personally burying the dead.
For us to understand proper burial well, we need to dig deeply into the Bible to have accurate knowledge. King Solomon wrote, A man may have a hundred children and live many years yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive PROPER BURIAL, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he .
Biblically and scripturally, a person is considered to have been given a decent or proper burial if his remains or body was properly covered or wrapped in a fine material, for example, fine linen shroud or put in a casket and was laid in a tomb. So, we can say that Christ Jesus received a proper, decent or honourable burial . David also received a proper burial .
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Four Other Reasons To Bury
There are other reasons, besides these biblical pointers, that should give us pause before we decide to burn our loved ones. For example:
Where Christians are a small minority, cremation is high. And where Christian influence is giving way to rapid secularization, cremation is rapidly increasing. Almost everyone adhering to Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism cremate their dead. . . . Japan has one of the highest cremation rates in the world with the country reporting a cremation rate of 99.85% in 2008. . . . The cremation rate in the United Kingdom has been increasing steadily with the national average rate rising from 34.7% in 1960 to 73.44% in 2008. . . . from 5.89% in 1970 to 68.4% in 2009.
The first cremation in America took place in 1876, accompanied by readings from Charles Darwin and the Hindu scriptures. For many years, relatively few persons chose cremation.
The nature of the procedure of cremation makes dishonesty difficult to prevent and honesty hard to enforce. For example, how would you know if the crematorium actually cremates your loved one, rather than just disposing of the body? There have been scandals over this very issue. It may be cheaper for the crematorium to dispose of the body. And we all like cheaper.
Given Below Are A Few Bible Verses About Cremation
Genesis 3:19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.1 Corinthians 13:3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.1 Samuel 31, verses 11-13And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
Joshua 7:25And Joshua said, Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day. And all Israel stoned them with stones and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
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Bible Verses For Mom’s Or Dad’s Funeral
The Bible has a lot to say about how to treat your parents. Some of those verses, though instructional and important, may not be the best ones to choose for your mom’s or dad’s funeral. Here are some verses you may want to consider.
The Bible Describes Death Like Sleep
When the Bible talks about death, it often uses language that describes sleep.
In the Old Testament, David, Solomon, and the kings of Israel are all said to have rested with their ancestors once they died . And this is in addition to nearly 50 other times the Bible describes death as a sleep-like state, with no activity of the consciousness.
This is discussed in the books of Psalms and Ecclesiastes.
The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence .
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun .
The metaphor of sleep denotes a completely unconscious state. Simply put, once a person dies, they are no longer aware. They feel neither emotion nor pain.
Rather than being taken straight to Heaven to watch whats happening on earth, they are laid to rest, unaware of life and all the troubles it still holds for everyone else. They are completely unconscious, just as they would be if they were fast asleep.
And yet, hard as it may seem, this state of unconscious death is actually one of the ways God shows His mercy and kindness. Think about it.
Theyd miss you terribly and you would miss them, but thered be nothing you could do about it. Youd be stuck in Heaven, unable to help. What sort of paradise would that be?
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Benefits Of Cremation Today
Cremation has been a burial alternative throughout history and is more of a philosophical and cultural issue, rather than a biblical one. While a few religions, such as Islam and Orthodox Judaism reject cremation, others have loosened their restrictions, and regard cremation as a spiritually sound process.
Todays cremation services take into account the desires of both the deceased and the living and offer enough flexibility to provide for appropriate closure, grieving, and prayer.
Cremation costs less and uses fewer materials than a burial. Its an ecologically sound method of dealing with remains that respect the importance of the human body, as well as the care of the earth.
Because we live in a transient society, more people are dying away from home, and the cost to transport a body can be prohibitive. For this reason, many families choose to have a direct cremation conducted at the place of death and then arrange to ship or carry the cremains back homean even more affordable option.
More On The Bible And Cremation Options
You can read more about the Bible and cremation history here in this article.
What Does the Bible Say about Cremation?Funerals are meant for the living as a chance to celebrate the life of their loved ones who have passed. It is a chance to remember, respect, and reminisce their lives. It is also a reminder that we are ultimately in Gods hands.
The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About CremationFor the first time in history, a majority of Americans have chosen cremation rather than burial.
Can You Still Go to Heaven If Youre Cremated?Does the Bible forbid cremation? This has been a controversial topic in our family recently, because an aunt of mine died not long ago and directed that her body be cremated. One of our cousins, however, claims the Bible says you cant go to heaven if youre cremated. Is he right?
If the question, What does the Bible say about cremation? has been answered for you, it is wise to begin making an end-of-life plan for yourself or a loved one now.
Advance planning helps clear minds to consider all the possibilities, especially when considering whatever faith is practiced by those involved.
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Biblical Perspective On Cremation
You may do well to investigate why your family doesn’t approve of your cremation choice. Perhaps they consider cremation as not Biblical. However, as we have seen, cremation is never a Biblical issue. Here are some other concerns of Christians about cremation.
1. Perhaps they are worried that when Jesus returns at the Rapture and the bodies of long-dead Christians are resurrected and transformed into spiritual bodies that you wont have a body to resurrect. Frankly, since the first century, most bodies are now dust anyway. Since God is big enough to produce a world-wide resurrection, He certainly can make a spiritual body from only a speck of dust — or less.
2. Perhaps your family wants you in a casket-filled grave so they can have a place for remembering you and your lives together. This desire is natural and normal.
Recently, I’ve observed families foregoing the expensive caskets and burial plots by choosing cremation. They then purchase a small cemetery plot in which to bury the ashes. Others scatter the ashes over a prearranged place meaningful to the deceased. Some save a few ashes in a small locket as a token reminder of their loved one. Some ashes reside in burial urns over fireplace mantles.
With all that being said, remember that your body is still your body. Discuss openly with your family that you want to dispose of your body in the way most comfortable to you. In your case, that is cremation.
Well, B, I hope this helps. Have a great talk with your family.