Burial vs. Cremation :: By David E. Thompson

What about the issue of cremating a body rather than burying a body? Those who emphatically oppose cremation have very little doctrinal understanding of this part of anthropology. James W. Fraser, a Baptist minister who is emphatically opposed to cremation, has written a pamphlet Cremation Is It Christian? This pamphlet is filled with many inaccurate statements and conclusions not based on sound doctrine.

For the sake of exposing the student to this issue, we will summarize and briefly refute his main arguments against cremation. Fraser offers the following biblical verses to support his position:

Proof #1 – I Corinthians 6:19-20

He claims these verses prove that we should not be cremated because our bodies aren’t ours, but the temple of the Holy Spirit, which should glorify God. Once we are dead, we are no longer connected with this fleshly, earthly body. The immaterial side to us, including the Spirit’s Word, is separated from the old fleshly body and we are present with the Lord, glorifying Him. At that point, it doesn’t matter what is done to this old body. These verses are combating immorality during life, not cremation after death (i.e. 6:16, 18).

Proof #2 – Amos 2:1

Fraser claims this verse proves cremation is forbidden by God and in fact was an unpardonable sin of Moab, which brought the judgment of God. If we check the biblical record to discover exactly what it was that Moab did in a war with Edom, we will discover this is not a true interpretation. Moab drove Edom to their own territory and apparently opened royal graves and took out the body of the king and burned it. In ancient times, this was a terrible desecration and sacrilege. Furthermore, the burning of a body had false worship ramifications.

According to 2 Kings 3:26-27, the thing God held Moab accountable for was the fact that he offered humans as burnt offerings to foreign gods. In this case, the king offered his own son as a burnt offering, who was to reign next as king. The burning of bones was not a matter of cremation, but execution in the act of worshipping a false god. This passage has nothing to do with the decision of a family to cremate a body.

Proof #3 – Several Old Testament Examples

Several Old Testament examples are cited such as taking Joseph’s bones back to his homeland (Gen. 50:24-25). God has promised Abraham’s seed a land. Joseph was a key leader living in Egypt. By this act, he was making a statement that he believed someday God would give Israel her land, just as He had promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21).

God has not promised New Testament believers a land. He has promised us heaven. When we die, we get to go home to live where we belong. Our home is not this land or this earth, our home is in heaven. Therefore, once we are dead, we are home and it doesn’t matter what is done with our bodies. These Old Testament Jewish examples are not meant to be a treatise against cremation, they are meant to be a Jewish statement of land promises for Israel (Ezek. 37:1-14).

Proof #4 – Cremation destroys the sacred memory of our beloved dead.”

Mr. Fraser claims cremation is one of the quickest ways to destroy the memory of the one who died. This is one of the most ludicrous, illogical and idiotic concepts this teacher has ever read. I have personally known of a daughter, who has a picture of her father, along with his cremated remains in her living room and continually reflects on many blessed and wonderful memories she shared with him.

All of the New Testament churches are ruins today. In fact, it is impossible for us to even locate exactly where some of those churches stood. We, however, have not forgotten about those churches in Corinth, Rome, Ephesus or Thessalonica. In some of those churches we even know some of the names of the people connected with them. I have known of husbands and wives who have had their mates cremated, who continue to remember and honor their mate and thank God for the years they had together.

Do we dare suggest that the relatives of those who died at sea, or in a crash or in war are any less loved because we cannot honor a dead body? Absolutely not! Memories are thoughts of the mind and they are not contingent upon the state of the body in a grave. Mr. Fraser is totally distorted in his thinking. Cremation is not a subject that is specifically addressed in the Bible. It becomes a personal and individual decision.

The main New Testament teaching is not one that is concerned with the state of the body, but the state of the soul. Therefore, on this issue it is best to follow Paul’s advice: “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Rom. 14:22).

When a believer dies, does he receive a new, temporary body?

The question is not “Is a believer who dies recognizable in heaven,” the question is “Does a believer in Jesus Christ, who dies before the Rapture, receive some temporary or intermediate material body until such time when the believer receives his new glorified body at the resurrection?” This is a very difficult question and more than likely the answer to this is No.

We say “more than likely” because there are no specific statements in Scripture which address this. We may conclude the following:

1) In passages that speak of physical death, there is a clear separation between the material and immaterial (2 Cor. 5:18).

2) In passages that speak of those who have physically died, one of the great promises is that the immaterial part will be reunited with the new glorified material part (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor.15:51).

3) If we were given a new temporary body at death, what happens to us at the resurrection ? Why is there no mention of this?

4) When a person is taken to heaven, it doesn’t seem that the issue of a body makes any difference (2 Cor. 12:2-3).

When a believer dies, we know that he is fully aware of his state in glory and we know that in some way he is recognizable (Luke 16:23). Although all of the intimate details have not been revealed, we cannot be wrong in concluding that at death the immaterial part of a person which  is recognizable instantly goes to be with the Lord (for the believer) until the resurrection, which will occur at the end of the Church Age, in which a new, glorified body will be reunited with the immaterial part of a person.


Pastor David E. Thompson is pastor/teacher at Texas Corners Bible Church in Kalamazoo,  Michigan with a nationally syndicated radio show reaching all across the United States. Pastor Thompson may be classified as a true systematic Bible expositor and communicator of God’s Word.  He carefully  expounds books of the Bible in a way that is contextually, exegetically, grammatically, historically, and theologically accurate to the text and relevant to the time. He is also an very skilled in New Testament Greek.