Burial vs Cremation
Throughout history, the mode of burial has been culturally dictated. No method is biblically mandated, however, in early Jewish culture, bodies of the dead were often allowed to decompose until only their bones remained. The bones would then be placed in the family “bone box.” When the Scriptures speak of men going to “rest with their fathers,” their bones literally did!
By the time of Jesus, the culture had adopted the use of individual bone boxes known as ossuaries. When Jesus was laid in the tomb, it likely was to precede His eventual placement in an ossuary. Praise God that his bones did not end up in a box and that He lives as a guarantee of our eventual resurrection!
Even in Christian cultures, cremation has been used during times of crisis or when a plague forced the disposal of many bodies to prevent the further spread of disease. Cremation was not seen as a barrier to the sovereign power of God to recreate the body that it might be glorified in the day of resurrection.
Pagan cultures have frequently preferred cremation because of the pantheistic philosophy that the dead should return to the great “oneness” represented in nature. Since no future resurrection of the body was anticipated, there was no great attempt to treat the body with respect. As our own nation becomes more secularized, cremation is growing as a viable, cheaper and more efficient method of disposing of the body.
Christians, however, have consistently sought to bury their dead since the time of the early church. This valuable Christian tradition indicates our respect for the body and our fervent belief in a bodily resurrection. As Paul says, the body is like a seed that is placed in the ground and it will eventually grow (be resurrected) to a new indestructible and eternal body (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
Although cremation is not wrong and might even be necessary, burial is to be preferred for the Christian. Like Christ whose body was placed in a tomb, just so, we also anticipate that despite its decay, God will raise up our bodies, recreated in the likeness of Christ.