The Bible on Cremation vs Burial

➤ by Pastor Andy Fulson

Traditional Biblical Burials

Since ancient times, the dead have been buried in simple graves, caves, or massive mausoleums, such as the pyramids. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was buried in a cave (Gen 23:1-20). Likewise, Lazarus was placed in a cave (Jn 11:39-44). Jesus was buried in a tomb in which no one had been laid before (Mk 15:46-47).

These burial examples for the dead have continued in Christianity and have become the cemeteries with which we are familiar.

Only one incident of cremation is identified in Scripture, and that in regard to King Saul and his sons (1Sam 31:11-13).

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live, Deut 30:19

Options to Consider

Scripturally, there are no specific instructions for Christians on preparation for burial. And while cremation is not mentioned as an alternative, at the moment of a believer's death, however caused, their spirit and soul are also with God, (2Cor 5:8). The body, if buried, over time, decomposes (Jn 11:39).

Not everyone's body is recoverable for burial, whether by an incident at sea, in wartime, a car explosion, a plane crash, or in a house fire. For them exists the same high calling (upward call) of God in Christ Jesus (1Thes 4:16-17).

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works, Revelation 20:13.

The deceased, whether believers (Jn 3:3) or unbelievers, both will stand complete in body, soul, and spirit to receive God's judgment decision (Rev 20:11-15). For some, it will be a decision to eternal life with God or, for others, for eternal separation from God into the Lake of Fire (Mt 25:41).

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live, John 5:25.

Considerations Prior to Burial/Cremation

A priority consideration for everyone before passing from this life into eternity is their confession of Christ Jesus as their Lord (Rom 10:9-10) and Jesus' instructions in John 11:25-26.

Only one sin will keep a person out of God's Kingdom and not attain to eternal life: He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, John 3:18.

The type of burial for the deceased, be they believers or unbelievers, is irrelevant. Whether a high gloss or simple pine coffin is used, whether a fancy urn is on display or buried, or whether the burial is among or next to graves of other family members, are only matters to the living, not for the deceased.

After the Last Breath

Scripture reveals an often-overlooked fact: that humans are spiritual beings created in the image of God (Gen 1:27-28), have a soul and live in a body (1Thes 5:23).

For believers, Paul emphasized this point with, to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:8. For the dead in Christ, their spirit and soul are united with God. The body, however it was ceremonially interred, remains on earth, regardless of its state, until the day of the upward call of Christ (Phil 3:14).

To the Thessalonian church, Paul explained the resurrection this way: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep,1 Thessalonians 4:13-15.

Final Thoughts Regarding the Funeral

Irrespective of the type of burial, realize that it is only a temporary holding place for the body. Everyone's body decomposes, being made from the dust of the ground (Gen 3:19). For the righteous, in response to the upward call of the Lord, the body will resurrect from its earthy state to eternal life with God, in unity of body, soul, and spirit.

Then will come a fulfilling of Isaiah's prophecy: He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces, Isaiah 25:8. For a great voice out of heaven proclaimed: And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away, Revelation 21:4.

Regarding the unbelievers, the hypocrites, and the rebellious, their resurrection will lead to a very different outcome (Rev 21:8). Their bodies, at Christ's return, will not resurrect to eternal life with God.

For them awaits a completely different expectation.

Consider your decision beforehand, as long as life's breath exists within you: I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land, Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

Paul reassured the Corinthian church with: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.

Avoid letting yourself be influenced apart from Scriptures, regarding the burial, the resurrection, and the afterlife.

Your life in Christ is blessed with expectation: Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;), Hebrews 10:23.

Know that your pending burial is only a temporary place for your body. Even the cremated remains of your body, will respond to the resurrection power of the upward call into eternal life with God and His Christ (Rev 7:9-11), reunited with your soul and your spirit.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

Unless stated otherwise, all Bible passages quoted in orange are from the KJV translation.

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