Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
Cremation is one of those issues that the Bible neither encourages nor forbids. When it comes to burying the dead, there is no scripture that says what you should or should not do.
While the subject of cremation is not among the many other topics in the Word of God, there are biblical examples with details about how Jesus and others were buried. The Israelites always buried their dead and put them in a tomb. The Jews in Jesus’ day continued with the same tradition and so did the New Testament Christians.
Biblical Examples of Burials
The Bible does not command burial or have laws against cremation. The Old Testament and the New Testament demonstrate how God’s chosen people always buried their dead. Jesus Himself was buried in a tomb.
“The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife” (Genesis 25:10).
“There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah” (Genesis 49:31).
“But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:11:12).
Cremation is a method of the final disposition of a dead body through burning. Cremation may come before or after the funeral. Cremation is commonly carried out in a closed furnace at a crematorium.
There is only a small amount of ashes left behind after cremation. Unburnt fragments of the bone mineral are commonly ground down into a powder. The ashes may be buried, put in a memorial site, given to relatives or scattered.
Cremation dates back to at least 17,000 years. Although the Bible does not specifically speak about cremation, we do see in the Word of God that only the heathen tribes burned their bodies with fire after death. The Jews always buried bodies in graves in the ground or entombed their dead in a cave or in a sepulcher, similar to our modern-day mausoleums.
The scriptures do not forbid cremation, and the scriptures do condone it. A person's relationship with God who had accepted Jesus Christ as his savior before he died determines his eternal destiny whether he is buried or cremated. Whether a Christian is buried in the ground or cremated, it will not affect his eternal destiny.
Reasons For Choosing a Burial
Some people consider a funeral and a burial as solemn events that include stewardship of a person’s body. There are reasons for choosing a burial over cremation.
- A Christian funeral gives the family and friends an opportunity to grieve together.
- A Christian burial also gives the family a place to visit to reflect on the life of a deceased loved one.
- A Christian burial is usually done within days of death. Cremation could be done before or after a funeral or memorial service.
Reasons to Choose Cremation
More Christians are choosing cremation because they are more informed than they were years ago. They no longer see it as taboo or a pagan ritual. They choose cremation over traditional burial for personal reasons.
Those who choose cremation do so for faster and more convenient arrangements for relatives left behind. Cremation is a more simple disposition method and easier and quicker to plan than a burial. This is because a funeral with a burial requires many services performed by the mortician such as embalming and other body preservation methods.
With a funeral and burial, several other costs are involved. There has to be the purchase of a casket, grave plot, and headstone. Fees include the opening and closing of the grave and transportation of the body.
Cremation only requires transportation of the body to a crematorium, cremation of the body, and a cremation urn.
Many people choose cremation because it is less costly than a traditional burial service. Fewer decisions need to made when cremated is the method. A direct cremation is even less expensive than a regular cremation. That is when the body is cremated as soon as possible without other services.
If a person dies away from home in another city or country, his family would have to pay for transporting the remains back home unless direct cremation has been chosen.
What Happens After Cremation
Cremated remains can be scattered or buried. Cremation plots are usually cheaper than a traditional burial plot or mausoleum crypt and require less space.
Some religions, such as Roman Catholicism, require the burial or entombment of cremated remains. The remains may often be put in a family member or another person's plot without any additional cost.
It is a common practice to scatter the remains in a place the deceased liked. Such favorite places include a river, a beach, a park, or a mountain. Scattering ashes is generally forbidden in public places. Sometimes the place is designated in a person's will.
A small part of their ashes can be distributed to family members in urns if they want them. Cremated remains can also be converted into diamonds. Urns are costly. If you plan to bury it, there is no need to pay a lot of money for it. If you plan to keep the urn as decoration, then feel free to select a more beautiful one.
Views Other Religions Have About Cremation
Today, cremation is an increasingly popular form of disposing of the deceased. However, it has not always been that way. For many years, Christians opposed cremation, but some of the Protestant churches came to accept cremation earlier than the Catholic churches.
Judaism discourages cremation. Islam prohibits it. Hinduism practices it. The Eastern Orthodox Church forbids cremation The Roman Catholic Church discourages cremation because its members believe the body is holy and should be treated with honor and respect. They also feel that cremation constitutes a denial of the resurrection of the body.
New Bodies at the Resurrection
You might be wondering what happens to the bodies of those who die in fires, are lost at sea, or those who died in the 9-11 tragedy.
The Bible is clear that no matter how a person died, the body itself will eventually return to dust. In the meantime, their spirits will go to either heaven or hell while waiting for the day when the person receives a resurrected body.
“All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecclesiastes 3:20).
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
All bodies return to dust whether they are buried in the ground or cremated and their ashes are scattered. Also, God will give all Christians a new body at the resurrection. Those who knew the Lord and served Him while alive will await their new bodies at the second coming of the Lord.
Just as Jesus was resurrected and now has an eternal body, those in the family of God are promised a resurrected body.
Conclusion of the Matter
A person's wish should be honored whether he wants to be buried in the ground or to be cremated. No one should be condemned for choosing cremation as the method of disposition of his body after death.
A person should make his intention known to family members because after his death the person in charge of the arrangements might have different views about cremation. He might do what he wants instead of what the deceased family member wanted.
This writer has chosen cremation after death. She does not believe cremation will keep her away from her eternal home.
For Additional Information
- Case For and Against Cremation
More and more people are choosing cremation over burial for several reasons. There are many people who are against cremation because they say it is not biblical. However, the Bible is silent when it comes to the subject of cremation.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on October 27, 2019:
Lora, thanks a lot for reading and sharing your thoughts. It is always good to get your opinion.
Lora Hollings on October 27, 2019:
Thank you Reverend for clarifying this topic according to scripture. It is good to know that the bible doesn't forbid it and that it doesn't determine his eternal destiny but his relationship with God before he died determines his soul's destiny.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on October 27, 2019:
MsDora, thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate your input on this delicate subject among some Christians.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 27, 2019:
Rev, I appreciate this explanation on cremation and how believers ought to view it. Some people try to make the Bible say what it doesn't say on the topic. Thanks for making it clear that the Bible neither promotes nor condemns it. Very helpful.