Burial vs. Cremation by Pastor Raymond Wicks

Our views of the afterlife will influence how we handle the bodies of those who have died.  That is true, not just with Christians, but with many others of varied beliefs as well (e.g., Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.).


The Biblical direction seems to give a strong trail of burial for the dead.

Ecc. 6:3 “If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.”

Gen. 15:15 “And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.”

Gen. 49:31 “There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.”

Acts 8:2 “And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.”

Of course, the great example in the Bible is the record of the burial of Jesus Christ.  Matt. 27:57-59 tells of Joseph of Arimathea gaining permission from Pilate to bury our Lord’s body in a new tomb cut out of the rock.

Most of the key people in the Bible were buried.  In fact, it was considered a dishonor to the people of Israel not to receive a proper burial.


The word “cremation” is derived from the Latin word “crematus” or “cremare” meaning “to burn up.”  During the process of cremation, human remains are placed in a wooden box, and then into a crematorium or furnace.  They are heated to temperatures between 1600-2000 °F until the remains are reduced to bone fragments and ashes.  The bone fragments are then processed in a machine until they resemble coarse sand, light gray in color.

The early Christian church rejected cremation, partly because of its association with Pagan societies. 

When people dead or alive were burned in the Bible, it usually had a bad connotation.

2 Chron. 34:4-5 “And they brake down the altars of Baalim… And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.”

Deut. 12:31 “Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.”

2 Kings. 16:3 “But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel.”

Eze. 24:9-10 “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Woe to the bloody city! …and let the bones be burned.”

Practical Thoughts

  • The burial is a type of planting—symbolic as a reminder of the resurrection and future with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”


  • Just because a body has been destroyed by fire or any other means, doesn’t mean that a person will not have a body in heaven—all saved folks will get a new body. The heavenly body is a new, spiritual body, and not the old body of flesh and blood.  1 Cor. 15:35-55


  • Unless the cremated remains are interred in a cemetery, there may be no permanent marker or place to honor and memorialize the life and death of the deceased for generations to come.


  • The main reason people are cremated today is often because it is less expensive than burial.


  • How you want to be laid to rest is a personal decision. I have put together these thoughts since many have asked me recently about this subject.  It is important to discuss your wishes with your family, and also know the preferences of your family members.  This will make funeral preparations a little easier for everyone involved when that difficult time comes.