I have been asked about my position on whether cremation is a viable alternative to burial for a Christian. Nowhere in the Bible do we find directions on how God prefers us to dispose of a dead body. Certainly we see early on that bodies were customarily buried (Gen 35.8, 19), or interred in caves (as was done with Jesus’ body). Jacob and Joseph’s bodies were embalmed (Gen 50.2, 26) according to Egyptian practices. We do know that when Israel was under the Law a dead body, bearing the end result of mankind’s sin, would ceremoniously defile any who touched it.
Early Christians preferred burial as a way to testify in their belief of a future resurrection. However, many early Christians were fed to lions and burnt at stakes, among other things. Yet their manner of burial, if they even were buried at all, does not disqualify them in any way from the resurrection! Read the following verses and note that our flesh cannot enter Heaven, and that all believers (dead or alive) will be changed into bodies that are sinless and eternal.
“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:50–52, ESV)
Not everyone will die (some will still be alive at Christ’s return), but everyone gets a new body!
In any society there are customary ways of honoring the dead. In the USA, in our day, a person can be honored in death whether by burial or cremation. Therefore I believe that cremation is acceptable for the Christian, especially if the person requested it before their death.
The important thing to remember is that Christ bore the curse of the law for us, so that by faith we can be saved and receive the Holy Spirit.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Galatians 3:13, ESV)
Further reading: Gal 3:13-14; 1Cor 15:35-49; Eccl 12:7; Job 19:25-26
David Harris is the Senior Pastor at Faith Baptist Church. A former programmer, in his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife Kim and trying his hand at the illusive craft of smoking meat.