Question: I do not recall your ever having addressed the subject of cremation. Is it unbiblical? |

Question: I do not recall your ever having addressed the subject of cremation. Is it unbiblical?

TBC Staff

Question: I do not recall your ever having addressed the subject of cremation. Is it unbiblical? Isn't it a heathen practice? Also, don't our bodies belong to the Lord?

Response: Everything we have and everything we are is the Lord's. There are a number of ideas on the subject of handling human remains. We'll comment on some of them, then give our position.

In Genesis:50:25, we see that Joseph wanted his bones kept specifically so that he might be buried in the Promised Land when God's people returned there (Ex 13:19, Josh:24:32). This wasn't intended as a requirement for everyone but as an assurance to the people that God would be faithful to release them from exile. According to the scriptures, Joseph commanded the embalming of his father, Jacob. Later, Joseph's body was also embalmed (Gn 50:26). For other examples of bones being left intact, see Jeremiah:8:1.

The "dust and ashes" as used in Genesis:18:27 is simply a figure of speech expressing Abraham's humility and reverence before the Lord. Job:30:19 similarly uses the term. (Note: People in biblical times and lands would sometimes express their sorrow and mourning by throwing ashes over their heads. Or they might speak of being "on the ash heap." Neither of these has any implications concerning cremation or embalming.).

What we're trying to point out is that a word study of "bones" and "ashes" might be edifying but may not apply nearly as much as what seems far more important: understanding that God will do what He says He will do, which is to raise us in our glorified bodies at the last day. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that regardless of how one dies (even if in an explosion or, as in Hebrews 11, sawn in half), the Lord would have any difficulty in resurrecting our bodies. "I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" (Jer:32:27).

Yes, pagans often dispose of bodies through burning. They also embalm (the Egyptians, for example) and surround the dead with great wealth. Today, there is a unique argument that "morticians make an idol of our bodies"! Any mortician (or mortician's client, for that matter) is accountable for his own spiritual condition. Whether someone else (pagan or otherwise) worships his own (or someone else's) body need not and should not apply to one's decision; it is the heart upon which the Lord looks.

"To dust we shall return" doesn't require or command that we do anything in order to reach that state. The Bible speaks of the body being sown a natural body and raised a spiritual one. We cannot oppose cremation on scriptural grounds; neither does the Bible recommend it. There may be some practical considerations, as, for example, bodies that were burned during the bubonic plague. Although there is plenty of scriptural precedent for embalming the body, there is not for cremation. Insofar as embalming is a practical consideration, we can also see that cremation may on occasion be a practical choice. In New Orleans, the water content of the soil does not allow the burial of coffins, and above-ground tombs are limited.

Let me encourage you to be at peace about the subject, since the Lord is far more concerned about what you do while you live in your body than after you leave your "earthly tent" to meet Him face to face.