Q: You said that our bodies would reunite with our souls, but what about the ones who are cremated? Do they become bodies again?
A: The short answer is: yes. No matter what happens to our bodies after we die, the Lord will, by His almighty power, resurrect the bodies of all people at His Second Coming. We say in the funeral liturgy, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” and if our bodies turn to dust (via burial) or to ashes (via fire), the Lord will still gather us up and remake our bodies in the resurrection of all flesh.
This question, by the way, is an old one amongst theologians. Added to it were the questions concerning bodies that were eaten: the martyrs who were eaten by lions, the missionaries who were eaten by cannibals, and those Christians who died and were buried at sea. How are these resurrected? The church, taught by the Scriptures, has always confessed that the body that dies is the same body that is resurrected [Philippians 3:20-21]. How the Lord reassembles a body that is burned, scattered, digested, etc. is answered only by the fact that God is God and He can do as He pleases. Cremation does not prevent the resurrection; those who are cremated will have bodies again.
But there is another question concerning cremation: should a Christian be cremated? Is it sinful? Is there anything wrong with cremation?
Cremation is an ancient practice and very common among pagans (ancient Greece and Rome), but until recently cremation was almost unheard of in the church (as well as ancient Israel). Recent statistics are different. As many as 45% to 65% of deaths in Colorado are followed by cremation. These are staggering numbers and much higher than the national average.
Burial is the normal practice in the Scriptures: Sarah (Gen 23:1-4), Abraham (Gen 25:8-10), Isaac (Gen 35:29), Jacob (Gen 49:33-50:13), Joseph (Gen 50:26; Josh 24:32), Moses (Deut 34:6, buried by God!), Joshua (Josh 24:29-30), Eleazar (Josh 24:30), Samuel (1 Sam 25:1), David (1 Kings 2:10), John the Baptist (Mt 14:10-12), Lazarus (Jn 11:17), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5-10), Stephen (Acts 8:2), and, of course, Jesus (Mt 27:57-61; Mk 15:42-47; Lk 23:50-56; Jn 19:38-42).
Death by fire, on the other hand, is often seen as a curse or punishment. (See Gen 38:24; Lev 20:14; 21:9; Num 16:35; Joshua 7:15-26; Jdg 15:6; Jer 29:22; Amos 2:1).
The Scriptures do not demand that Christians be buried. Nor do they forbid cremation. How the body is treated after death is a matter of Christians freedom. Unless a person is, by cremation, denying the resurrection of the flesh, there is no sin in cremation. On the other hand, there is in the Scriptures and the history of the church a strong bias toward Christian burial.
For further study concerning the resurrection:
Job 19:23-27; 1 Corinthians 15
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