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Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

Question: “Is there anything wrong with cremating a body after death instead of burying it?”

 Answer: The Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn cremation or call it a sin; it really doesn’t directly address the practice at all. Our hope is in the resurrection and perfection of both our body and soul after death because grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Cremation doesn’t in any way prevent our bodily resurrection – otherwise those whose bodies are incinerated in plane crashes could never be raised. Our bodies eventually disintegrate and turn to dust, no matter how we die. But God does, in some way, reconstruct our bodies in a perfect form (I like to speculate that the DNA coding has something to do with it!).

 However, there seem to be implications in Scripture that burial is the way of honoring the body as God’s creation, recognizing that our physical nature is an important part of who we are and that our salvation won’t be complete until our bodies are raised in perfection. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, the Apostle Paul uses the imagery of sowing a seed to describe what we do in burial, in the hope of God raising the physical body in a glorified form. The later Greeks and Romans, on the other hand, favored cremation because they had a very low view of the body, seeing it basically as a prison for the soul. 

 There can be no doubt about the tradition of burial being handed down by our spiritual forefathers in Biblical history. The bodies of the patriarchs were buried (Genesis 23:4-9; 25:9; 35:9; 50:26). The body of Aaron was buried (Deuteronomy 10:9). To our knowledge, God has only handled the arrangements Himself for one of His saints who died – Moses – and He chose to bury his body (Deuteronomy 34:5,6). The kings of Israel were buried (2 Chronicles 16:13,14). And, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ was buried.

 On the other hand, in Scripture, the burning of the body is usually associated with judgment. The punishment for stealing treasures from Jericho was the stoning and burning of the offenders (Joshua 7:15,25,26). In the Old Testament law prescribed burning as the punishment for some sins (Leviticus 20:14; 21:9). The final judgment for all who reject Christ is described in terms of being “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). 

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

The Paradox of Death

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

      In Luke 21:12-16 Jesus prepares His disciples for their suffering to come by saying, “…they will lay hands on you and persecute you…You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.” Those are pretty ominous promises, but, before the disciples could begin to have second thoughts regarding their commitment to follow Him, He says one verse later, “But not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:18).

     How can both of these statements from our Lord be true? How could his followers be persecuted, suffering for Christ, even to the point of martyrdom, and yet not experience any harm, even the loss of a single hair?  I know many balding Christian men who could either be troubled or reassured by Jesus’ statement, depending upon how they take it!

     Jesus liked to teach by means of paradox – making statements that seemed to contain blatant contradictions – such as, “the first will be last”; “he who loses his life will save it”; “whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.” The first half of the statement only appears to contradict the second half; as you study, you discover that both halves are true, only in different senses.

     The first statement – that Jesus’ followers can expect to suffer and even die for their faith – is intended to be understood in the literal, earthly, physical sense. Christians can be subject to all the pains, illnesses, diseases, and handicaps that this fallen world can dish out, plus they should expect to suffer in various ways for their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus promised that the lives of His followers would normally be harder than those of unbelievers, not easier.

     But the second statement is the good news – no matter how much we suffer in this life, ultimately, we will suffer no loss whatsoever. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). Followers of Christ have this glorious hope – that when our salvation is complete, we will be far better than new, the best version of ourselves that we could possibly be, by God’s grace. Every hair will be in place, every bone and muscle will be renewed and stronger than ever, and every internal organ will be made perfect. Better yet, our souls will be washed clean, filled with purity and holiness, and we will love God and each other with perfect intensity.

     What is the key to understanding Jesus’ paradox? How can we lose and still win? How can we sacrifice and still gain? How can we die and still live? The key is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. That greatest event of all time confirmed that His death had fully paid the price for our sins, and that He had, once for all, defeated death. By His grace, we will share in His resurrection, and be part of the New Heavens and New Earth for all eternity.

     So, along with Paul, we can taunt death and Satan: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?...thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55,57). Satan’s greatest weapon – the fear of death – has been neutralized.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with