What About Cremation?

Webster defines "cremate" as "to burn (a dead body) to ashes." We wish to consider two questions about cremation: 1) Is it morally right? and 2) Will it prevent one from being resurrected at the "last day"?

In the Old Testament, some sins required the offender to be "burnt with fire" (Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9). Achan and his family were stoned and then burned because he took spoils from Jericho (Joshua 7:25). The bodies of Saul and His sons were retrieved from the wall of Bethshan by the valiant men of Jabesh-gilead. These men burned the bodies of Saul and his sons and buried their bones (1 Samuel 21:12,13). Josiah burned the bones of men on the altars of Bethel and at the high places in the cities of Samaria when he sought to reform God's people (2 Kings 23:1,20). Amos foretold of the punishment of Moab. Moab had "burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime: (Amos 2:1). Amos also tells how the Lord abhorred the "excellency of Jacob" and hated his palaces. He said, "And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. And a man's uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house..." (Amos 6:9,10). In the New Testament, Paul said, "...though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). Paul, undoubtedly, was speaking of martyrdom and not of cremation. The act would, however, result in the destruction of the body by fire.

While there are no examples of one expressing a desire to be cremated after death in the Scriptures, and even though burial seems to be the conventional way people chose to dispose of the body in Bible times (Matthew 8:22), no passage seems to forbid cremation.

Cremation did not prevent one from being resurrected. The body is corruptible, or liable to decay (1 Corinthians 15:54). It was made from dust and shall return to dust (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7). Cremation only hastens this process. It is perhaps, hard for us to understand how God will raise the body from dust or ashes, but God can do it (1 Corinthians 15:35-38; Acts 2:8).

Will the spirits of sinners of the Old Testament who were burned with fire (Leviticus 20:14; 21:9), Achan (Joshua 7:25), and others be left "unclothed" throughout eternity or escape God's day of judgment because their earthly bodies were destroyed by fire? Will Saul and his sons be left "naked" or miss the judgment day? No, all will be judged; even those who bodies have been burned (2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). This means all will be raised and given bodies suited for their eternal destiny.

Will Christian martyrs who were burned to death miss their reward in heaven (1 Corinthians 13:3)? If so, the enemies of Christ would be able to do more than kill the body. The could destroy the Christian's hope. But Jesus said, "And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do" (Luke 12:4). A fire demise cannot rob the Christian of a glorious body resurrected from the dead (Philippians 3:21).

The Bible does not say that cremation is wrong, and the manner of disposition of the body does not effect the resurrection of the body.