How Should a Christian's Remains Be Disposed?

Various cultures, ancient and modern, have practiced a handful of different methods of disposing of the dead, including burial, burial at sea, exposure, embalming, and cremation. Biblical examples show the Hebrews who lived at the time of Christ favored burial without embalming (a simple burial compared to today's customs). The Jews merely wrapped the dead in linen strips with spices and fragrant oils among their layers (John 19:39-40; see also Luke 23:53—24:1). Christ was buried according to this custom.

However, the Bible, taken as a whole, shows that the mode of a person's burial is not of great importance. Jacob was embalmed according to the custom of the Egyptians (Genesis 50:2-3), yet the Bible states that he will sit with Abraham and Isaac in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:28). Joseph was also embalmed and put in a coffin (Genesis 50:26). Christ, though not embalmed, was resurrected to become the firstborn of many brethren. Jonathan, son of Saul, was cremated and his bones and ashes buried (I Samuel 31:11-13). Others martyred in the persecutions of the early church received no burial, yet they, too, are promised a place in the Kingdom. Jesus and Paul liken death, burial, and resurrection to the process a seed undergoes when it is planted (John 12:24-25; I Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44). Regardless of whether a person becomes dust or ashes, the Bible promises that he will be resurrected (Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:12-14).

Of far greater importance than the disposition of one's remains is the life one lives. It is upon these grounds that Christ will judge us (see Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; I Corinthians 3:8). Our time of judgment ends with death, so the method of the body's decay has no affect on it.

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