Question: "Is burial the only option a Christian can consider?"
Answer: The Bible doesn't give instructions on how a body should be handled after death. In the cultures of Bible times, burial in a tomb, cave, or in the ground was the common way to dispose of a human body (Genesis 23:19; 35:4; 2 Chronicles 16:14; Matthew 27:60-66). The most common type ofburial in the Bible was the dead being placed in above-ground tombs, for those who could afford it. For those who could not afford it, bodies were buried in the ground. As we see in Joshua 7:25, the only time the dead were burned in the Bible was as a punishment of the wicked for offenses they committed against God’s commands (Leviticus 20:14). In the New Testament, tombs were still the burial places of the wealthy, which is why Jesus, who had no earthly wealth at all, had to be buried in a tomb borrowed from a wealthy member of the Jewish hierarchy named Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60).
Today, obeying the laws of the land regarding corpses is always a significant consideration. Laws vary from country to country and, in the U.S., from state to state. Because Christians are to obey the government authorities over us, laws regarding disposing of a body must be followed. Then there is the question of burial vs. cremation. Neither is commanded in the Bible, but neither is prohibited. In the end, it is best to leave that decision to the family of the deceased.
Whatever method is used to dispose of a body is not nearly as important as the truth that the body is no longer housing the person who has died. Paul describes our bodies as “tents” that are temporary abodes. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). When Jesus returns, Christians will be raised to life and our bodies will be transformed to glorified, eternal bodies. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:42-43).
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