Before we consider what the Bible says on this subject, it should be known that for centuries the thought of cremation among Christians was taboo, for it is well-known that cremation is “pagan in its origin.” Mr. A. J. Pollock says this (in his pamphlet titled “Pagan Cremation or Christian Burial”):

“For long centuries it was the almost universal custom of Aryan peoples—Indians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Teutons, etc.—to BURN their dead. In Britain Druids, Celts, and the early British burned their dead. The practice of cremation was suppressed gradually in favor of Christian burial, where Christianity took root. The teaching of the truth of the resurrection of the body, and the accountability to God resulting therefrom, brought about this change.”

We will look at a few scriptures to support Mr. Pollock’s view, but it should be known that cremation has now become quite popular among some Christians because of its low cost in comparison to burial. They also justify this practice by saying, “It matters not if our bodies are burned, for when the Lord comes to take believers home to glory, He will surely raise their bodies by His power whether they were buried, burned at the stake, or cremated.” They are right in saying this, for Scripture is clear that the “dead in Christ will be raised” (see 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17) and their bodies will be transformed and “conformed to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). But though this is true, the question remains, “Does the Bible support cremation, or does the Bible teach Christian burial?” I firmly believe, along with Mr. Pollock and other Bible teachers, that BURIAL is the honorable way to dispose of a believer’s body. Let’s look at a few passages and may the Spirit of God illuminate us on this important subject.

In Genesis 3:19 we read, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you RETURN TO THE GROUND, for out of you were taken; for DUST YOU ARE, AND TO DUST YOU WILL RETURN.” This was God’s sentence upon Adam for his sin in the garden of Eden. He was “formed from the dust” and in death he was to “return to the dust.” It does not say ASHES, but DUST, for this verse clearly implies burial. Because of Adam’s sin the sentence of death has passed onto all men (Romans 5:12) and there is no hint in scripture that God has changed his mind about “returning to the dust.” Solomon wrote about the death of the body and he had this to say, “Then the DUST WILL RETURN TO THE EARTH AS IT WAS, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Again, there may be exceptions to this as in the case of one being “burned at the stake” or being “reduced to ashes in a fire,” but the general rule is the body will “return to the ground.” The only time (and this was very rare) God ordered one to be cremated was if he was a wicked sinner. “Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing SHALL BE BURNED WITH FIRE…because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD” (Joshua 7:15). “But the sons of rebellion shall be as thorns thrust away….and they shall be UTTERLY BURNED WITH FIRE in their place” (2nd Samuel 23:6-7). Throughout the Old Testament the godly believers were ALWAYS BURIED (see Genesis 23:14-20; 25:7-10; 35:19; and Joshua 24:32). Moses had the privilege of being BURIED by God Himself (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).

In Acts 8:2 we read of the first Christian martyr: “And devout men carried Stephen TO HIS BURIAL, and made great lamentation over him.” This, dear friend, was and still is, the custom for Christian believers.

Yet I have purposely saved the most prominent example for last. It was prophesied in Isaiah 53:9 that our blessed Lord and Savior would be BURIED: “And they made His GRAVE with the wicked—but with the rich at His death.” The enemies of Christ were going to bury the Lord Jesus in a grave reserved for criminals, but God made sure that His blessed body would be buried with loving hands in the tomb of a godly man. We see the fulfillment of that in John 19:38, 40-42, “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus…took the body of Jesus, and bound it with strips of linen with the spices, as was the custom of the Jews is to BURY….in a new tomb…they laid Jesus.” If our blessed Savior was BURIED, should we not follow His example and be BURIED? I think so, and we will look at one more passage to confirm this. In the great Resurrection Chapter (1st Corinthians 15) we read, “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (verse 20). This verse sets forth Jesus as the EXAMPLE for all believers, for just as He was BURIED and “risen from the dead,” so should believers who have fallen asleep. We should be BURIED and in time we too shall be “risen from the dead.” If you go on to read verses 35-38, 42-44 you will see a strong affirmation of BURIAL, for the Spirit of God speaks over and over again of the body being SOWN and then RAISED. In verses 35-38, He compares our body with a “body of grain” being SOWN in the ground and then RAISED with a new body. Then in verses 42-44 we read, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The BODY IS SOWN in corruption, it is RAISED in incorruption. It is SOWN in dishonor; it is RAISED in glory. It is SOWN in weakness; it is RAISED in power. It is SOWN a natural body; it is RAISED a spiritual body.”  (DO)  (547.5)