Cremation

Positonal Statements

Cremation is the burning of dead bodies. The following are the reasons I am convinced that cremation should not be practiced by Christians:
Cremation has a heathen origin and purpose. Why do the Hindus and those of other heathen religions 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. Again, 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. There is nothing Christian about cremation.
God's people have always practiced burial. Abraham (Genesis 25:8-10), Sarah (Genesis 23:1-4), Rachel (Genesis 35:19-20), Isaac (Genesis 35:29), Jacob (Genesis 49:33; 50:1-13), Joseph (Genesis 50:26), Joshua (Joshua 24:29-30), Eleazar (Joshua 24:33), Samuel (1 Samuel 25:1), David (1 Kings 2:10), John the Baptist (Matthew 14:10-12), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5-10), Stephen (Acts 8:2). In Romans 15:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:11 God tells us that we are to follow the Bible's examples as well as its direct instructions.
Even in difficult circumstances God's people in olden days practiced burial. For example, Joseph's body was kept for over 400 years in Egypt and then carried through the 40 years of wilderness wanderings before being buried in the Promised Land. We read of this in Genesis 50:24-25; Exodus 13:19 and Joshua 24:32. How much simpler it would have been for the Israelites to have cremated Joseph, then carried his ashes with them in a tiny container! This they refused to do. Joseph, a follower of the one true God, a man who looked forward to the bodily resurrection, was given an honorable burial. From this important example, 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.
Burial looks forward to resurrection. The reason God's people have always been careful to practice burial is not difficult to understand. We believe in a bodily resurrection (Romans 8:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). Yes, the buried body will decompose in time. Yes, there are occasions in which Christians die in ways which will render burial impossible - in the sinking of ships, in fires, etc. But when at all possible we bury. Why the trouble? Because it is our certain hope that the same individual will be raised in the same body, only changed. The physical body is called the seed for the resurrection body. When planted, a seed decomposes, and the new plant comes forth. The Bible uses this to illustrate resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 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 does not destroy his seed; he plants it, then from the decaying seed comes forth the new life. Such is burial and the resurrection. When we bury a Christian loved one, we are planting the seed for the resurrection body! It is a powerful testimony of our unwavering faith in God's Word regarding the promise of bodily resurrection.
Contrast heathenism. They have no such knowledge or hope. The Hindus and Buddhists, for example, 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.
God's people have always buried their dead with this magnificent hope burning in their hearts. "We will see that brother or sister again in that same body, only changed, glorified!" Hallelujah! Only through the death and shed blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can we have this certain hope. He has taken upon Himself on the cross the punishment for our sins, carried our sins into the grave, and risen again in eternal triumph three days later. When an individual thoroughly acknowledges his sinfulness before God, repents of his sin, and receives Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, the sin debt is paid, and eternal life and glory is promised from God the Father. Part of this heritage in Christ is the glorified resurrection body.
God practices burial. (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6).
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 (Exodus 32:20; Leviticus 10:1-2; Deuteronomy 7:25; Numbers 16:35; 2 Kings 10:26; 1 Chronicles 14:12; Acts 19:18-19; Revelation 20:15).
For a person not to have a proper burial was considered a dishonor. (1 Kings 21:23-24; Psalms 83:9-10).
The Christian's body belongs to God. The body is not ours to destroy by fire or by any other means (Romans 14:8; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
God has plainly called cremation wickedness. (Amos 2:1)
The Lord Jesus Christ was buried, and he is our great example (John 19:38-42).
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 Corinthians 5:9 and Philippians 1:21-23). The body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26). The dead body sleeps in the grave while the redeemed soul waits in glory for the great resurrection day.
Of course we cannot force people either to bury or not to bury. I know that some people have perished in fire but that is not cremation. And we know that eth manner of one's burial does not affect one's salvation or resurrection, but we do believe these things are important, and we are convinced that Christians should take their stand upon the examples of the Word of God.
Randall Runions, Pastor