CREMATION OR BURIAL ?
by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca) Kingston, Ontario April 2008
Animals leave their dead in the open to be eaten by others and rot
away. Humans agree that when we die the body we have used must be
disintegrated. This is usually done by cremation or by burial. By
cremation the corpse immediately returns to dust. By burial the
disintegration takes longer especially if money is spent on a steel
casket. The Pharaohs of Egypt had the body embalmed and placed in a
pyramid for even greater permanence.
The New Testament teaches that whatever happens to the earthly body,
the spiritual body is immediately resurrected. Jesus said to the thief
on the cross, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in the
garden" (Paradise is a Persian word meaning an enclosed garden, Luke
23:43). He did not say "you will lie in the grave for over 2000 years
till the day of a final resurrection."
This is why Paul could say, "I am hard pressed between the two: my desire
is to depart and be with the Messiah, for that is far better; but to
remain in the flesh is more necessary for you" (Philippians 1:23-24).
He also said "We know that if the earthly tent we live in is
destroyed, we have a building from God, not made with hands, eternal
in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with
our heavenly dwelling" (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). Nowhere does he suggest
a long period lying in the grave waiting for our resurrection body to
be brought to life again.
The Old Testament taught that at death the person immediately went to
sheol, the abode of the dead. This was a temporary place to await the
resurrection. When Jesus left his earthly body his first act was to
empty sheol of its contents, and the dead there immediately shared in
Jesus' resurrection (Matthew 27;50-53; 1 Peter 3;18-19).
If that is the case, the way we dispose of our old body becomes
irrelevant. Whether we use cremation or burial therefore becomes a
question of convenience and the rules of our country (in some
countries cremation is illegal). But if we bury a loved one, we should
not imagine that he or she is lying there in the grave. The
resurrection body has long gone to be with the Lord.