by Kelly Carr
About a decade ago, my grandparents were highly invested in deciding what to do for their own funeral arrangements. There were a lot of options given to them, and they kept debating what would please them both. At one point, a mausoleum was in contention:
My grandfather: “I want to be in one of those drawers!”
My grandmother: “But what if they put us up too high? I want the family to be able to walk by and touch it.”
While I thought the conversation was a little humorous, their arrangements were important to them. They have changed their minds several times since then. I’m just happy that they are still with us and haven’t had to put any arrangements to use.
Is One Choice Better?
As we know too well, we can’t predict or fully plan for death. For some, death comes suddenly—before they are able to make arrangements. Others may have some things thought out or written down so their loved ones have a plan for their final resting place.
Making arrangements is a way of taking the burden of decisions away from those who will be left behind. But do our choices matter? The biggest option may be cremation or burial. Is one choice more biblical than another?
Let’s take a look.
We Are Dust
First, let’s consider what we’re made of: dust. And what will we return to: dust. We learn that in Genesis 3:19: “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return” (New Living Translation).
So if our bodies are buried in a coffin, they will eventually turn to dust. And if our bodies are cremated, they will turn to dust.
The Dead Will Rise First
Some people may have concerns about cremation when they come across 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
People may wonder how bodies can rise if they have been cremated. However, as mentioned previously, bodies that have been buried for many years will be in a similar deteriorated condition as cremated people. We must remember too that many people have died in accidents at sea, in fires, and so on and have no choice in how their bodies are laid to rest.
But we are told that it’s not our mortal bodies that matter. We will be transformed.
We Will Have New Bodies
1 Corinthians 15:44-51 tells us,
[Our bodies] are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. . . .
What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
Reading this Scripture, we can be assured that whatever condition our bodies are in as we perish (or even our condition if we are still living), when Jesus returns, we will have new (and improved) houses for our souls.
The Bottom Line
The conclusion to the matter is: it’s your choice. Burial traditions have changed from culture to culture, throughout the world, throughout time. You may choose based on your family traditions and history or you may choose based on costliness and ease of facilitation.
No matter what arrangements you make for your body, God will look at the arrangements you made for your eternal soul.
Kelly Carr is a freelance writer in Cincinnati, Ohio.