Cremation - burning the body until it is a pile of ash. All of mankind has to face a question that most would rather not even think about. How do I want my body to be disposed of? Most of mankind has the opportunity to choose how they want their dead bodies to be put away. There are exceptions to this such as the people who died in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped or the people trapped in the world trade center when it collapsed.
I know a person who claims to be a Christian but her wish is to be cremated at death. She is a pet lover and has had all her pets who have died cremated. She wants her ashes mixed with theirs and then scattered in the forest.
Because of the influence of eastern and pagan cultures, the idea of cremation has been romanticized. Many movies of mythic and ancient war heroes depicts the fallen hero having their dead bodies being burned in funeral pyres on ships or top of mountains.
Should a Christian be cremated? What does the bible say about cremation?
There is one instance in the Bible that shows God being greatly displeased with the act of cremation.
Amos 2:1-2 - 1 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: 2 But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
God is angry with Moab because he cremated the king of Edom instead of burying him. God is so angry that he pronounces judgment upon Moab and the form of judgment is fire.
Fire is always associated with God's judgment against evil in scripture. In today's world, those who reject the gift of pardon that Jesus made on the cross to take away their sins, face the judgment of the lake of fire.
Here are more examples of God using fire to punish the disobedient.
Lev. 20:14 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
Lev. 21:9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.
In the book of Joshua chapter 7, Achan took spoils of battle that God had forbidden the Israelites to take. What was the result of Achan's disobedience?
24 Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day." So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. 26 Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day
Achan and everything he cherished was stoned to death and then burned. Cremation here illustrates God's displeasure with Achan and it became part of God's judgment.
Based on the above scriptures, I would say that a Christian who chooses to be cremated has chosen to offend God.
Cremation is also associated with burnt offerings to God and burnt offerings to pagan gods. The burnt offerings to God covered the sins of Israel until Christ came and made the perfect offering. After that there was no more need for burnt offerings.
Burnt offerings to pagan gods involved the sacrifice of children. 2 Chronicles 28: 1 - 3 - 1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. 2 For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. 3 He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
Cremation is something that a Christian should avoid if at all possible. In fact, not being buried is portrayed as a disgrace in the canons of scripture.
Deut. 28:26 Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away
Psalms 79:2 The dead bodies of Your servants They have given as food for the birds of the heavens, The flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth.
Jeremaih 7:33 The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away.
Not to be buried is a dishonor. To be buried honors the ones who have passed. We see this in 2 Samuel 2: 4 - 7
4 Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, "The men of Jabesh Gilead were the ones who buried Saul." 5 So David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead, and said to them, "You are blessed of the Lord, for you have shown this kindness to your lord, to Saul, and have buried him. 6 And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing. 7 Now therefore, let your hands be strengthened, and be valiant; for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah has anointed me king over them."
The bodies of all the heroes of the Bible were buried, none were cremated.
King David - So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David 1 Kings 2:10
John The Baptist - And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:12
Jesus Christ - And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in
his own new tomb, which he had hewn out of the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
Matthew 27:59- 60
Stephen the first martyr - And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.Acts 8:2
Arno Froese writes: The Apostle Paul asked: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own: For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When we understand that our bodies are not our own, we immediately realize the significance of burying the body. Seed is not to be burned but buried: "And that which sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain" (1 Corinthians 15:37) We may not be able to scientifically or intellectually identify what this seed consists of, but it is clear that this body/seed must be put into the ground in order for it to bring forth the spiritual body: "It is sown a natural body; is is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:44) Would anybody think to burn a seed then plant it in the ground and then expect a harvest? Burial is the method God has instructed His people to use when disposing of a body. From Midnight Call August 2007
Our body, for some reason, is important to God. This is illustrated in Jude 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
Cremation or burial? Honor God and be buried. It illustrates the hope you have of being resurrected.
Copyright 2008 by Gary Goodworth
Some questions I have been asked since I wrote this article:
Is a Christian who opts to be cremated lost? My answer to this is no. This may not be the way God would have chosen for that person to be buried, but being cremated doesn't offset having your sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Some people are so poor that they can't afford to have a loved one buried.
If you donate your body for scientific research or you are an organ donor, would this offend God? God sent his only begotten Son to die so we could live so if we donate our body to science or medicine to give others a chance at life, I believe this would be okay.
Can God resurrect a body who has been cremated? If scientists can create life from a single strand of DNA then it would be no great feat for God to resurrect a body that has been scattered to the four winds. After all, He created the DNA.