“Charity never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)
In our previous studies we have seen that there are three basic types of Accrediting Gifts which include several gifts under each type. In the above passage, we find each type of Accrediting Gift is represented by one gift from each type …
|Type Of Accrediting Gift||Gifts Included In This Type||Representative Gift Mentioned In1 Cor 13:8|
|Supernatural Revelation Of The Truth||The Word Of Wisdom, The Word of Knowledge||Word of Knowledge (or Knowledge)|
|Supernatural Indicators Of The Truth||Faith, Gifts Of Healing, Working Of Miracles, Prophecy, Discerning Of Spirits||Prophecy (or Prophecies)|
|Supernatural Proclamation Of The Truth||Divers Kinds Of Tongues, Interpretation Of Tongues||Diverse Types Of Tongues (or Tongues)|
Please note the above verse (1 Cor 13:8), which includes one representative gift from each group, makes it plain that each type of Accrediting Gift will come to an end at some point in time. We now will turn our attention to the question at what point in time will these gifts go out of existence?
In this study, we will see that this question is answered by the Word of God using several different lines of teaching which all present the same answer for us. This will be the lines of teaching that we will be studying:
I. The Coming Of “That Which Is Perfect”
II. The 70 Year Accreditation Time Span
III. The Death Of The Apostles
IV. The Supernatural Beginning / Natural Perpetuation Of God’s Workings
V. The Prophecies of False Miracles In The “Last Days”
There is a principle that seems to be repeated throughout both the Old and New Testament Scriptures… it is the principle described as of “Supernatural Beginning and Natural Perpetuation”. This principle says that in many, if not all cases, a Godly feat of creation relies upon miraculous divine intervention for its existence and the uses a series of natural acts for its continuation.
Here are a few examples of this principle….
|God’s Creative Work||Miraculous Beginning||Natural Perpetuity/Maintenance|
|The Universe||Spoken Into ExistenceHebrews 11:3, Psalm 33:6-9, Genesis 1:1-2:7||Gradually Decaying Waiting For DeliveranceRomans 8:19-24|
|The Tabernacle||Divinely Inspired Plans Given To ManExodus 35:30-35Miraculous AccreditingMoses – Book of Exodus Joshua – Book of Joshua||Levites To Care For TabernacleNumbers 4:16, Exodus 40:33-38|
|The Temple||Divinely Inspired Plans1 Chronicles 28:11-21Miraculous AccreditingElijah -1 Kings 17:-18: Elisha-1 King 19:-2 King 13:||Levites To Care For Temple1 Chronicles 9:26-34|
|The Bible||Inspired Men Handed Down Scriptures2 Peter 1:19-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-19||Human Beings Translate and Copy ScripturesDeuteronomy 17:18-20|
|The Local Church||God Comes To Earth/ Forms AssemblyRomans 9:5, Matthew 10:1-2Miraculous Empowering and AccreditingHebrews 2:3-4, Acts 2:1-13, Acts 19:1-7||Church To Send Out Other Men To Form Other Assemblies Throughout The World.Matthew 28:18-20|
|Eternity||Divine Visitation and Recreation of World1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 2 Peter 3:6-8||The Constant Continuation of EternityDaniel 12:1-3, Revelation 21:-22:|
If you notice, based upon the above chart, the Local Assembly follows in this same pattern. The Lord miraculously came to the earth and, while He was present, He founded the local church (Matthew 10). Also, through miraculous means, following His ascension, He empowered His assembly to do His work in Acts 2:, and then He accredited His assembly through the miraculous works of the Apostles and other members of His churches throughout its beginning years.
However, also in alignment with His other acts of creation, His miraculous intervention stopped during New Testament times and from then forward the perpetuity of the local assembly is brought about through the fulfilling of the Great Commission by members of His assemblies.
Once, again, this falls into perfect alignment with the concept that the age of the accrediting miracles came to an end during the later years of the Apostles’ existence on the earth (approx. 100 AD).
We will finish this section of our study next time with a look at the prophecies given by God of the existence of false miracles workers in the last days.
The Supernatural Beginning and Natural Perpetuation Of God’s Workings:
1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2) And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3) And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4) And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5) And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6) And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7) And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so.
8) And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9) And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry [land] appear: and it was so.
10) And God called the dry [land] Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that [it was] good.
11) And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, [and] the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed [is] in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12) And the earth brought forth grass, [and] herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed [was] in itself, after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
13) And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14) And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15) And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16) And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also.
17) And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18) And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that [it was] good.
19) And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20) And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl [that] may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21) And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
22) And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23) And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24) And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25) And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
26) And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27) So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29) And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30) And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31) And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
1) Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2) And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3) And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
4) These [are] the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
5) And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and [there was] not a man to till the ground.
6) But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7) And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
30) And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;
31) And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;
32) And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
33) And in the cutting of stones, to set [them], and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work.
34) And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, [both] he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.
35) Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, [even] of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.
33) And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
34) Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
35) And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
36) And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:
37) But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
38) For the cloud of the LORD [was] upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
16) And to the office of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest [pertaineth] the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil, [and] the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all that therein [is], in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof.
18) And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of [that which is] before the priests the Levites:
19) And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
20) That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, [to] the right hand, or [to] the left: to the end that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
(refer to the Bible for 1Ki 17:1-18:1)
(refer to the Bible for 1Ki 19:1- 2 Ki 13:1)
26) For these Levites, the four chief porters, were in [their] set office, and were over the chambers and treasuries of the house of God.
27) And they lodged round about the house of God, because the charge [was] upon them, and the opening thereof every morning [pertained] to them.
28) And [certain] of them had the charge of the ministering vessels, that they should bring them in and out by tale.
29) [Some] of them also [were] appointed to oversee the vessels, and all the instruments of the sanctuary, and the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices.
30) And [some] of the sons of the priests made the ointment of the spices.
31) And Mattithiah, [one] of the Levites, who [was] the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, had the set office over the things that were made in the pans.
32) And [other] of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, [were] over the shewbread, to prepare [it] every sabbath.
33) And these [are] the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, [who remaining] in the chambers [were] free: for they were employed in [that] work day and night.
34) These chief fathers of the Levites [were] chief throughout their generations; these dwelt at Jerusalem.
(1 Chronicles 9:26-34)
11) Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat,
12) And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things:
13) Also for the courses of the priests and the Levites, and for all the work of the service of the house of the LORD, and for all the vessels of service in the house of the LORD.
14) [He gave] of gold by weight for [things] of gold, for all instruments of all manner of service; [silver also] for all instruments of silver by weight, for all instruments of every kind of service:
15) Even the weight for the candlesticks of gold, and for their lamps of gold, by weight for every candlestick, and for the lamps thereof: and for the candlesticks of silver by weight, [both] for the candlestick, and [also] for the lamps thereof, according to the use of every candlestick.
16) And by weight [he gave] gold for the tables of shewbread, for every table; and [likewise] silver for the tables of silver:
17) Also pure gold for the fleshhooks, and the bowls, and the cups: and for the golden basons [he gave gold] by weight for every bason; and [likewise silver] by weight for every bason of silver:
18) And for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the pattern of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out [their wings], and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD.
19) All [this, said David], the LORD made me understand in writing by [his] hand upon me, [even] all the works of this pattern.
20) And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do [it]: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, [even] my God, [will be] with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.
21) And, behold, the courses of the priests and the Levites, [even they shall be with thee] for all the service of the house of God: and [there shall be] with thee for all manner of workmanship every willing skilful man, for any manner of service: also the princes and all the people [will be] wholly at thy commandment.
(1 Chronicles 28:11-21)
6) By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
7) He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.
8) Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
9) For he spake, and it was [done]; he commanded, and it stood fast.
1) And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation [even] to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
2) And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame [and] everlasting contempt.
3) And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
(1) And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
(2) Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
18) And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.
1) And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3) And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5) And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6) Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7) And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8) And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9) Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10) Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11) Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12) And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
13) Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
1) And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
2) He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
3) And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
4) Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5) When they heard [this], they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6) And when Paul had laid [his] hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
7) And all the men were about twelve.
19) For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20) For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected [the same] in hope,
21) Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23) And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.
24) For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
(5) Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
13) But 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.
14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15) 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.
16) 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:
17) 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.
18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
16) All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17) That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
3) How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [him];
4) God also bearing [them] witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
3) Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
(2 Peter 1:19-21)
(refer to the Bible for Revelation 21:1-22:21)
The necessity of the death of our body, and its use to honor and glorify the Lord, is an issue for which we all should be prepared. This would include the testimony that we display during our actual passing, as well as the funeral service and disposal of our body After all, our physical bodies are a wonderful gift from the Lord of which we are to use for His glory in every way possible…
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
I have said this to simply explain the importance of the issue we will be studying today. It is the issue of the burial of our body versus the cremation of our body. Do either of these dishonor our Lord or harm our testimony before Him?
In my way of thinking, one reason why there is so many questions about cremation versus burial of the body is because there is no “thus saith the Lord”. To my knowledge the Bible does not clearly address the issue. It is an issue that will have to be decided based upon a variety of Biblical principles instead of a clear Biblical declaration.
Keeping that in mind, I would like us to look at some Biblical principles that we can prayerfully consider…
1. The Stewardship Principle (see lesson #1)
2. The Example Of Honored Bible Characters
3. The Symbolism Of Fire And Burial
The Example Of Honored Bible Characters
The most common way the deceased body was cared for throughout the Scriptures is through the act of a burial. Normally, this “burial” was not underground in today’s time but in tombs, or sepulchers, made from caves covered by a huge rock: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah (Gen 49:29-31); Lazarus (Mark 15:45-46); Christ Himself (Mark 15:45-47) to name a few.
However, there is, at least, one cremation of an honored character that took place, and it was for the Lords glory…
“And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul; All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. And they took their bones, and buried [them] under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.” (1 Samuel 31:11-13)
In this case, the bodies of Saul and his sons were burned to make certain the Philistines would not be able to reclaim the bodies and, once again, put them on public display, bringing shame to the land of Israel. This was not done to dishonor Saul and his sons, who were revered by Israel, it was done to retain the honor of Israel and her God, Jehovah. In this case, the burning of the bodies was done to preserve respect for the Lord, not take away from it.
Another example of a Godly use of cremation is found in Amos…
“Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed. The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. And a man’s uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that [is] by the sides of the house, [Is there] yet [any] with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD. For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.” (Amos 6:7-11)
In this case, we have cremations taking place to stop a communicable plague from spreading throughout the land.
Also, we have to think about all the other honorable servants of the Lord whose body did not receive a proper burial. In Hebrews 11: we find listed, in general terms, the types of death, and lack of burial many experienced…
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and [of] Barak, and [of] Samson, and [of] Jephthae; [of] David also, and Samuel, and [of] the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-40)
Throughout the ages, the bodies of the people of God have suffered greatly at the hands of their enemies. Some of the types of death relevant to our study include…. burning at the stake, being sawn asunder, eaten by wild animals, cast into the sea, torn apart on the rack etc etc etc. All of these examples help us to understand that, in some instances, the lack of a burial actually glorifies God in great ways depending on the situation in which they occur. Paul understood this principle when he actually offered for his body to be abused for the resultant glory of the Lord….
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Of course, Paul is not referring to a cremation here, but a death by fire (aka being burned to death) which has a secondary result of destruction of the body.
Based upon the examples of the honored Bible characters, it seems as if the norm was definitely a proper burial of a prepared body, but it certain instances, cremation or the lack of a proper burial was used by the Lord for His honor and glory. This must be determined based upon the motive behind the action and the circumstances surrounding it.
The Symbolism Involved
The final area that we need to look at is the area of symbolism… what does burial symbolize, if anything; and what does cremation of the deceased body symbolize, if anything? To help us understand this we need to see what these two acts are related to in the Bible….
First let’s look at the symbolism of application of fire ….
Many times, the application of fire is symbolic of the falling of God’s judgment.
How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire? (Psalms 89:46)
And [when] the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard [it]; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed [them that were] in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them. (Numbers 11:1-3)
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime: But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, [and] with the sound of the trumpet: And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the LORD. (Amos 2:1-3)
In all the above three texts, which is only a sample of the many times fire is used by God to judge those who were rebellious, we can see that the application of fire was related to God’s anger and wrath being poured out upon the sinful.
However in our last text, Amos 2:1-3, it is interesting for us to notice WHY Moab was being punished by God. It is described as “because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime”. Was the Lord calling the act of cremation a sin? If so, this would make our study much simpler. There are those who say that is exactly what is being said, and therefore, we can know with certainty that the cremation of a body is an act of sinfulness.
However, from my perspective, I do believe this verse is better understood to be describing the horrible cruelty of Moab that was shown by his burning up the bodies of his enemies until the bones turned to small pieces with which he then plastered his palace. He was a nice guy huh? (Because this information is based on human historians who were not inspired by God, this information cannot be relied upon with absolute certainty. Therefore I am just sharing this alternate view with you.)
The reason why I do not think it is speaking of all types of cremation is because, we just saw in a previous examples where the act of cremation was not sinful but done as an act to glorify and honor the Lord. I do not believe the act of cremation is not sinful in and of itself, but the purpose behind the cremation, and the circumstances surrounding it, must be taken into account as well.
From this standpoint, a usage of fire to cremate a body would be a symbolic picture of the body being used to dishonor the Lord, and as a result the body receiving judgment at the hand of the Lord.
Not only is the application of fire is symbolic of the falling of God’s judgment, but at other times, the application of fire was used by the Lord to accept an offering made to Him…
And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: [which] when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:23-24)
And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought [it] out unto him under the oak, and presented [it]. And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay [them] upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that [was] in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that he [was] an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace [be] unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it [is] yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” (Judges 6:19-24)
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, [even] I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets [are] four hundred and fifty men.
Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay [it] on wood, and put no fire [under]: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay [it] on wood, and put no fire [under]: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress [it] first; for ye [are] many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire [under]. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed [it], and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But [there was] no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he [is] a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, [or] peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the [time] of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, that [there was] neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD [that was] broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid [him] on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour [it] on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do [it] the second time. And they did [it] the second time. And he said, Do [it] the third time. And they did [it] the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at [the time of] the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou [art] God in Israel, and [that] I [am] thy servant, and [that] I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou [art] the LORD God, and [that] thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that [was] in the trench. And when all the people saw [it], they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he [is] the God; the LORD, he [is] the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. (1 Kings 18:21-40)
In the above texts, and in several others, we can see that many times the Lord declared His acceptance of an offering through the use of fire coming down upon the offerings and consuming them.
Under this basic usage, the cremation of a body could be seen as a body being offered for the Lord’s use (during its lifetime on earth) and that offering being found pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.
Now, let’s begin looking at the symbolism involved with the act of burial of a body…
The act of burial pictures the state of the saints dead body as it awaits the final resurrection.
But some [man] will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? [Thou] fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other [grain]: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh [is] not the same flesh: but [there is] one [kind of] flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, [and] another of birds. [There are] also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial [is] one, and the [glory] of the terrestrial [is] another. [There is] one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for [one] star differeth from [another] star in glory. So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; 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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit. Howbeit that [was] not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven. As [is] the earthy, such [are] they also that are earthy: and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)
In the above text, we can see that the body of those who are passed away is pictured by a seed that is sown. The resurrection of that body is pictured by the seed then sprouting and growing with a new type of life. Therefore it only makes sense that this seed that is “buried” and the sprout that arises with new life is the perfect illustration of dead body that is buried in the ground and the coming resurrection to a new type of life when the body comes forth from the grave.
The act of burial pictures Christ’s burial
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Hebrews 2:14)
But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
Christ went before His people setting the perfect example for us to follow in all aspects of His life. The example He has set for us even extends to the burial and resurrection of His body. Christ’s body was buried in a tomb and then three days later at His resurrection, He exited that tomb proving to all that He was the true God and Redeemer of His people. The burial of the believer’s body is one way, among many, that we can follow His great example that was set for us.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:
To summarize our completed study…
In the first study…
1. We have come to recognize the importance of using our physical bodies for the glory and honor of God as stewards of these wonderful dwelling places for the Holy Ghost. This principle even applies to our bodies following our death.
2. We saw that the burial of the body was following the example set for us by our Lord, and in and of itself, was an act that brought glory and honor of Him.
3. In our previous study, we also saw that the Bible gives us a clear recognition that the burial of a body is a very acceptable way to dispose of the body following death. It is through the use of burials that a body is protected for the destructive forces found in nature and shows great respect for the deceased.
4. In our first study we also saw that the use of cremation to dispose of the dead body, may be considered using a force of nature to destroy it. If that is the case, then this would be an act of dishonor for the deceased and abuse of the dead body.
5. Also, in several cases, cremation was used to destroy those who are enemies of the Lord and foreigners from the nation of Israel. Again, this would seem to teach us the need to refrain from the use of fire to dispose of the dead body.
In this, our final study…
6. We saw that most of the honored servants of God had their bodies placed in a tomb for their burial.
7. There were only two types of exceptions to the burial of God’s people… The martyred servants of the Lord, who then had their dead bodies treated abusively by the enemies of the Lord; and, a few other cases, where cremation was used motivated out of desires to honor the Lord and protect His people from harm and shame.
8. In this lesson, we also saw that cremation could be looked at as symbolic of the Lord’s rejection and punishment of the body of the deceased. However, we also saw that this same cremation could picture the Lord’s acceptance of the service that was once performed in the body. To my way of thinking the symbolism of fire is a wash, since it could be looked at either way.
9. Based upon the spiritual lesson learned from a burial, we saw that a burial was symbolized by a sown seed waiting to receive new life and sprout. This being a picture of a saint’s body sleeping awaiting a future resurrection.
10. We also saw that a burial was also a public declaration of what our Lord has done for us by dying on the cross and experiencing a resurrection with a glorified body.
I believe the overwhelming evidence of the Scriptures is for the burial of the body of the saint who has passed before us. It is clearly and acceptable way to dispose of the dead body picturing what Christ has done for us (as well as following His example and the example of saints who have gone before us). It is a proper way of protecting the body from abuse by nature, as well as a picture of the saint’s sleeping body.
When it comes to cremation, this is a much more questionable method of disposal of the body. It could be abusing a body using a force of nature, and is associated with the death of those who are enemies of the Lord and it also is missing an opportunity to picture the Lord’s burial, following the example He has set for us. Finally, it lacks in it declaring that the saint’s body is “asleep” and awaiting a future resurrection. When we look at all these issues we can see that the weight of evidence makes cremation a questionable practice. However, we should never forget that the Bible does give examples of cremation being used in God glorifying ways. Therefore we cannot say that in every case cremation is a sinful act or displeasing to God.
My thoughts are that … Biblically, confidence can be found in the burial of the saint’s body. It is clearly an acceptable, God honoring way to dispose of the believer’s body. However, cremation is a much more questionable method of disposal of the body. Therefore, it must be selected with great care, prayer and consideration of the motives behind that decision.
The greatest consideration for us all is not the condition of our bodies following our death, but the condition of our souls now. Keep in mind, one of the supreme goals of a Christian’s service to the Lord is to see the salvation of those who are lost. For the Christian, are we certain our hearts are right with the Lord? Likewise, are we living a life that glorifies and honors Christ? Furthermore, are we using the opportunities the Lord has given to us to witness to and pray for the lost around us? All of these things are of utmost importance.
For those who are lost, have you ever experienced the Lord’s saving grace in your life? Have you ever seen that you have sinned against the Lord and, apart from His gracious intervention in your life, you can do nothing to gain forgiveness from Him? Have you come before Him humbly, turning form those sins and trusting in Him to save you from those sins? Have you ever experienced a change within you that results in recognizing Christ as your Lord and seeking to live your life for Him?
These are the marks of genuine salvation and the most important consideration that lies before us…
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
May the Lord bless you as you continue to seek His truth.
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May the Lord bless your study of His Word. Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”