RETURNING TO THE GROUND
What an unusual day we live in! Never would I have ever thought when I was a boy attending the LaGrange Saturday matinee movie, watching a Viking film with that boat set on fire by the flaming arrows of the friends of the dead hero on board, that cremation would ever be considered seriously in my world! But it seems to be a topic that the Lord’s people are being forced to routinely consider.
Here is but a light dealing with this matter beginning with the view point of the Christian’s body as set forth in the scriptures. It was published some time back, when I first wrote but a more brief portion of it. But since it has come up again among us, I am reprinting it, with some present additions, for your edification.
Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. The Interlinear Bible reads; “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground. For you have been taken out of it; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I do not intend to address the matter of cremation. I do not want to even investigate that subject, cluttering up my mind with such distracting thoughts. For our Christian transformation is to be matured and extended within us by the renewing of our mind! (Romans 12:2) Therefore let us confine our attention to the matter of the Christian’s body and its burial.
Our Body and It’s Purpose
The body of the human is an amazing thing to consider. As the Psalmist truly states, I am fearfully and wonderfully made! (Psa. 139:14) For how marvelous it is that one tissue of the body within the heart sends forth electrical impulses to cause the rhythm of the heart beat, so that most durable of pumps can send blood throughout the miles of veins and arteries for an entire life time. And yet another tissue of this same body, located in the delicate eye can reflect light and present images, both near and far, to the brain for its recognition. And other tissues within that forming embryo form both soft internal organs, and hard nails on the hands and toes! Amazing!
But that is not all of the glory of the human body. For its concept rests before time in the purposes of the Almighty, Invisible I AM, revealing himself! The furtherest back we can go in the search for the image in which Adam was designed is found in Revelation 13:8. There we find these words; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. This reveals that the design of God for a body for himself to dwell in was patterned around his determination, before an atom, or an Adam, to offer himself up as a sacrifice! The Eternal Son of God was to have the fulness of the Godhead dwell within his body. (Col. 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.) And that body was to be, from it’s very conception, entered into the fulfilling of that attitude of self sacrificing service! THAT was what the Trinity was referring to when he spoke of our image, as recorded in Genesis 1:26, into which he intended to create man! And it is in THAT concept we are to remember him as we observe his ordinance! 1 Corinthians 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Therefore Adam was formed in the preconceived image that God always had in his consciousness, even from before the foundation of the world. And since there were to be thorns pressed upon him, there was necessitated a space between the eyebrows and the hair line. Hence, the forehead. And since there would be nails driven into it, to fasten it upon it’s implement of offering, there was necessitated legs and feet, arms and hands. And as there was to be a spear trust in, to open up the blood flow, there was necessitated a torso and a reservoir of life giving blood, by which life – eternal, spiritual life – could be given to his elect people! Need there be stripes by which they are to be healed of their sin? Let there be a broad expanse on the rear of the torso, the back, in order to receive them!
Therefore it is not those who are “members” of local religious organizations who are real christians. But it is only those who have been formed into this image of self sacrificing love who are the true Christians! Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. For no matter if God’s spirit of love dwells within himself, or within those called effectually by his gospel, the character of that pure love in both seeketh not her own!
Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
Let us now consider the importance of the body of man made in that image of God:
1. The body both houses the soul and matures with it. Genesis 2:7 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.
Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Christian’s body is the very temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians. 6:19 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?
3. That which the Christian does with his body of God’s temple is most important. 1 Corinthians. 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
4. The body as well as the spirit and soul are therefore to be kept pure. 1 Corinthians. 6:20, For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians. 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
5. The Christian’s dead body is like a seed planted in the earth with the hope of a glorious harvest. 1 Corinthians. 15:35-44 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.
6. The body of Jesus Christ is the seed planted in the earth to bring forth the church into life! John 12:23-24 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. Compare I Peter 1:23.
7. The resurrection of the body is at the very heart of the Christian faith! Romans 4:25, 6:3-11; 1 Corinthians 15:13-22; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
8. God warns against defiling the body. 1 Corinthians. 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
9. God buried Moses’ body! Deuteronomy. 34:5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.
10. Burning of the body profits one nothing spiritually! 1 Corinthians 13:3 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.
Why Its Christian to Bury
The last act of the Christian in faith is to have his body “planted” into the ground to show his good hope of the resurrection! For he fully believes that Christ’s resurrection is not only the provision of his personal regeneration, (See Romans 4:25, listed above.), but also his own bodily resurrection! For Adam took us into death, but Christ takes us into life! 1Cor. 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
Our Lord preaches of the two fold aspect of the resurrection in this following passage. John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
In verses 24 through 27 of this John five passage the Lord is speaking of the resurrection of regeneration! For the sinner is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin! (Ephesians 2:1). And in those verses he gives the time of that resurrection by his present words, and now is! This is the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20:5 & 6, which if one has, the second death (that is, an eternity of dying in Hell), has no power!
But then in verses 28 & 29 of this John five passage he is speaking of the physical resurrection of the body. For there he does not say, and now is! But he does mention those being in the graves, which he did not mention in the resurrection of regeneration (that is, being born again)! And we must notice in verse 28 that his words, Marvel not at this, was to teach the Jew in that day that the resurrection of being born again is to be proved by the general resurrection of the body from the grave! And remember, even though Nicodemus was an esteemed Rabbi, he had no knowledge of this as seen in his conversation with the Lord in John chapter three.
Also, we must never forget that the resurrection, whether in the raising of the soul into spiritual life in regeneration, or the raising of the body from the grave, is not to just be seen as an event, but as a Person! John 11:24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
For Martha was called upon, exactly the same as are we, to believe not in the fact of an event, but in the reality of the Person of the Resurrection – the Lord Jesus Christ! Sadly many have been taught by our Confessions to give mental assent only to the doctrine of the event of the resurrection who have not come to place complete faith in the Person of the Resurrection! None but those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ shalt be saved! (Acts 16:31).
Pastor Gene Breed
March 16, 2011