Should a Christian Be Cremated?

by Jack Wellman on September 22, 2011 · Print Print · Email Email

What does the Bible say about cremation?  Is it a sin to be cremated?  Does it make a difference to God?

What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?

The Bible is actually silent as to whether a deceased person should or should not be cremated or burned.  There are examples of burning the bones of people (2 Kings 23:16-20) and Manasseh, one of the most evil kings of Israel, burned his own son in the fire (2 Kings 21:6) but this is not exactly befitting of the question of whether a believer should allow his or her body to be cremated after death.  What Manasseh did was an abomination to the Lord but it did not relate to his son’s burial.

Every example of burial in the Bible was always done in the ground or in a cave for the most part (Genesis 23:19; 35:4; 2 Chronicles 16:14; Matthew 27:60-66).  Cave burial was the most frequent burial custom of the ancient world and particularly with Israel and the Jews.  Cremation was practiced by pagan nations but was never practiced by Israel or by any of the Jews.  This does not mean that it is not acceptable because contemporary funeral services are extremely exorbitant and some families can not afford to be buried in a casket.  For financial considerations many have predetermined to have their bodies cremated after death.


Is it a Sin To Be Cremated? 

Once again, there is no sin in cremation that the Bible speaks of.  We know from Scripture that life is sacred and since God is the Giver of Life, then He is the only one who can determine the time and circumstances of a person’s death but what happens after death does not appear to be of great consequence to God.  No Christian needs to fear losing their afterlife if they are cremated since God will someday resurrect both believers and unbelievers (Corinthians 15:35-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).  The Bible does not appear to support it nor does it prohibit it specifically.

As for mankind, we are from dust and we will return to dust so considering the spiraling costs of funeral services, a person would not be said to be in sin if they have made prior arrangements to be cremated after death.  It appears that biblically speaking, this is a personal decision for someone to make. I have made out a will and like anyone else, they can specify to loved ones or in a will what their wishes are for after they are deceased.

Does it Make a Difference to God?

The Islamic faith prohibits the burning of bodies after death but this is a religious preference.  The Apostle Paul indicated that he would be willing to have his body burned for Christ’s sake if need be: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” ( I Cor. 13:3, NKJV).  This is not actually an endorsement for cremation but it also seems to indicate that it is not necessarily a sin either.  Paul never mentioned cremation in the New Testament nor was it mentioned in the Old Testament.  This would appear that God does not prohibit cremation, particularly if it were for financial considerations.  Since God did not specifically prohibit this in any of the Old Testament Mosaic Laws it seems likely that He would be indifferent to it being sin or not.  Where God clearly indicates His will, He normally spells it out plainly in the Law and cremation is never mentioned in the Mosaic Law as being forbidden.

What does make a difference to God is where the soul goes after death.  A person will face fire someday in eternal torment after death if they have not come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  If a believer dies, they can know with certainty that their body – whether cremated or buried – will be resurrected back to a perfect state.  The soul will join with the body after Christ’s return and they will never have to face death again.  That makes a difference not only to God but also to each and every person that knows Christ.  It also will make an eternal difference to an unbeliever because they will be in a state and place of suffering from which they can not return.  It makes a difference to us too and that is why I would hope and pray that if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you might come to know Him today.

When you place your trust in Him, your eternal state is something you can rest assured in.  And that is something that does matter to God since He desires that no one perish and that all would be saved.  As Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit, God says in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  So you can see that to God, you are important to Him and it makes a difference to God where you spend eternity.

Was this Article Helpful?

If this article was helpful to you, please consider linking this article to your own blog or sharing this through the social buttons to the left. You might also find some of these other good Christian Answer articles helpful:

What Are the Gifts of the Spirit?

What Does The Bible Say About Divorce and Remarriage?

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

Sources

The Holy Bible, New International Version

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam September 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Very nice explanations Jack. This is a question that we deal with almost daily when ministering to families. I am so glad you wrote this. It is a subject that I think many Christians question. Great job!

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Jack September 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Thank you so much Pam. I too have had this asked but in the end, God can put us all back together again, and better than Humpty Dumpty ever was. Isn’t our God an awesome God?

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Margaret Yohanna September 23, 2011 at 12:00 am

Jack,i really don’t understand u,the Bible said Manasseh burned his own son in the fire was an abominatio to the Lord,anything abomination to God is it not a sin?is manaseh that sin and not the son,so the relations that are doing it to their death ones are sinning.I 100% agreen with your explaination of 1cor15:35-58,1 thess 4:16.But in 1cor 3:3 is paul not refering to be burnt alive?or is he saying his death body?somebody who will give himself to be burnt alive so that he will die is it not a sin?pls explain more thanks.

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Jack Wellman September 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

Margaret, thank you for your comment. I am glad you mentioned this event of Manasseh. Why was it an abomination to God? He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger (2 Kings 21:6). Having a deceased person cremated due to their (the family’s) inability to pay for an funeral (e.g, casket, embalming, etc. which can be anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 dollars) is not even the same thing as “sacrificing his own son in the fire” and Manasseh “practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists” so this is why it was an abomination to the Lord. I had a friend’s father who had little money to even afford a preacher for the service so I did it free of course. It was my privilege. The average cost funeral services (in 2009, latest figures available) was $7,500! The casket alone can be from $600 to $10,000.

My friend’s father was poor, living below poverty level and my friend is disable only having SSI income. How can you say that he did an abominable thing to the Lord. He was not “sacrificing his own father in the fire” nor did he “practice sorcery and divination” and as a Christian, he certainly did not “consulted mediums and spiritists”. So I respectfully disagree that my friend was doing what Manasseh was doing. Read the context of all of Chapter 21 of 2 Kings, and in fact, all of 2 Kings and you can see that cremation of deceased loved ones is not the same things as Manasseh who “sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists.”

How would you respond to this?

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Margaret Yohanna September 24, 2011 at 1:11 am

Thanks alot,i wanted more explaination which you’ve done, is understood and i’m bless,but you left the second part of my qustion unanswed.My discovering of this site has given me more knowledge of the Bible.May God bless you and your team abundantly. Thanks.,

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Jack September 24, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Margaret. Thank you so much. What a grace-filled comment. I appreciate your words so full of kindness and love. Wow.

As for I Cor. 13:3, you are right. That is probably not a good example to use but I should have clarified more precisely what this verse was saying so I am going back to I Cor 13:1-3 which says

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

I failed to clarify my point with I Cor 13:3, so I owe you my apology. I am sorry for that. What I should have said was that even if Paul was burned alive, which many Christians were, particularly in Rome, was that even through a death by fire, that God would never have any problem resurrecting a human body at Christ’s return. I did a poor job of explaining so you were right that I failed to answer the second part. I am glad you caught me in that. I did not intentionally ignore it, but I just goofed. So sorry. First Cor. 13 is what is called the “love chapter”. His conclusion is that even if all will “it shall vanish away” love endures forever and God’s love will not leave us abandoned in the grave, no matter what happens. Be well and blessed. Thank you for commenting again and again, I am sorry for my incomplete answer to all of your question. My bad.

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Margaret Yohanna September 25, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Apology accepted.You’ve blessed me again, you ‘re really a material.I am happy with your explanations and well articulated.May God’s GRACE BE WITH YOU ALL.

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Jack September 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Thank you Margaret. You have blessed me and also made me want to be more prayerful, discerning, and study a little better before I answer. I am surely an work in progress no doubt. Your words are so full of grace and the love of Christ that I really needed this especially today. Thank you.

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Lester January 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm

You have explained the matters about cremation in different religion very well. I think if the religion doesn’t directly prohibits cremation, it is ok to have the body of the deceased to be cremated, especially when the family of the deceased don’t have much budget for a traditional burial.

Thanks,
Lester
Human Cremation Urns

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Jack Wellman January 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm

So true Lester. My own late mother had little money as she was alone and even though we children offered to help and pay ALL of the funeral costs, she insisted that we not pay the extra money and so she was cremated. Many families struggle with the extreme cost of doing so and sadly, funeral homes are under few regulations on costs and expenditures and many times take advantage of those who have little money to pay for a funeral and it is beyond their ability.

Regardless, my own mother is today, and those who could not afford a normal funeral burial process with casket and all, in the presence of God as she has put her trust in Christ and that is all the assurance that she and we need.

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Sharon February 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm

hi from Sharon:

Thanks for the very informative article about cremation vs burial. I am a Christian, but I do not have a lot of money either. I was wondering if it is OK for someone like me to be cremated. I am glad that you answered this question. I don’t think that God would condemn a Christian being cremated today due to financial problems. I did not realize that funerals and burials were so expensive. My mother is planning to be cremated when she dies because our family cannot afford the cost of a traditional burial. I don’t think that God would punish someone for having been cremated due to lack of funds.

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uitvaart April 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm

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Milton Billingsley July 22, 2013 at 7:50 pm

It really doesn’t matter because the only thing in the world that can not be destroyed, even by burning, is the Spirit God gave us and the Soul we gathered while here on earth. They will go the heaven not your physical body but the new body cleansed of all sins and diseases.

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Jack Wellman July 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Amen my friend. You are so right. My own mother asked to be cremated because she didn’t have enough money to have a casket and even with us children chipping in, she said what you said that God will join the body with the should again someday in heaven. I agree with you Milton. Thank you sir for your comment.

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