Is cremation unbiblical? Let’s open our Bibles and see.
Saul, the first king of Israel was cremated.
The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan. When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days. – 1 Samuel 31:8-13
Then, Achan was cremated according to Joshua 7:25,
Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
There is also a third reference to cremation in Amos 2:1-3. While each of these references describes cremation, the Bible never prescribes it. In fact, the Bible doesn’t prescribe any method as the proper method for burial. It is silent on the issue. When this happens, we need to look at some explicit scripture references in order to draw a conclusion on the issue. Here are three:
1. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb, not placed six-feet under. If we really wanted to be biblical on the issue, wouldn’t we all want to be placed in borrowed tombs?
2. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. This is how Genesis 3:19 describes us. God made us from dust. Our physical bodies will decompose and return to dust. Does cremation somehow hinder this? It seems to me that cremation just speeds up the process.
3. We have the promise of new, gloried bodies no matter what happens to our bodies now. Have you ever thought about what happens to a person who loses a limb? Will they continue to miss that limb once they receive their glorified body? I am thoroughly convinced that whether we die in a house fire, by drowning in the sea, getting chopped up in a gruesome machinery accident or we die of cancer, our body will be raised and glorified just like the body of the one who died from natural causes. 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 is just one Scripture that makes this clear, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” Cremation does nothing to change this promise.
We can conclude then that while cremation may not be preferred by many in our culture, it is not an unbiblical practice. I see no reason, upon the grounds of the Bible, that cremation should be avoided or prohibited. As Johnny Cash once sang, “Ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down” anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if I am buried, cremated or placed in a tomb. Whatever happens to me, I’ll be with the Lord Jesus Christ. My body can catch up to me later.