Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 21, 2019
Church Matters: Caskets in the Church
The Question on Caskets in Church
Is it okay to bring a coffin (casket)/corpse into a church? Is it against scriptures to send coffin or casket to church meetings for its burial service?
Observations on Caskets
I have never heard of this concern before. Perhaps the fear originates from those who consider that the church building is a holy temple. This question appears to be based on a misunderstanding of the church building. The people of God are the temple, not the building. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). In this case, the genuine question is whether we as God’s people should go and attend funerals and face death.
Yes, by all means, it is permissible to respectably bring a casket into a church building for a church service. Some old cathedrals have their greatly respected saints buried right in the church building while many more have cemeteries adjacent to the church building. (They even built a church building, St. Peter’s Basilica, over Peter’s tomb.)
1 Thessalonians mentions the proper way to look at the dead and include no such prohibitions. “Jesus…who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him” (1 Th 5:10). Notice the word “asleep” describes the dead believers as it is a temporary stage our coming bodies.
Perspective on the Future
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Th 4:13-18)
Jesus who lives in us, touched the unclean and dead, and, similarly, we as His disciples need not fear the dead or think it makes us less holy.
Christ’s Transforming Holiness
11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Ask now the priests for a ruling: 12 If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?’” And the priests answered, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered, “It will become unclean.” (Haggai 2:11-13)
In the New Covenant, however, God has made us holy, and like Jesus, we can focus on inner transformation from the blood of Christ which cleanses us from sin, reunites us with God, and will soon exchange this old body with a new incorruptible resurrected body (1 Cor 15). If Christ dare live within us through His Spirit, we need not fear the dead as with Old Testament laws and rules. Jesus has reversed the mode of understanding our association with the dead.
Discussion Questions for Holiness & the Dead
- Is it the casket or the dead body that is a concern?
- What is the church: a building or the people of God? Biblically defend your answer.
- What is the significance of the verses Haggai 2:11-13?
- How dies Christ change things in the New Testament?
- What hope do we have for all Christians regarding the resurrection of the body?