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Burial

Burial is first introduced in Scripture when Abraham said to the sons of Heth: “Give me a possession of a sepulchre with you, that I may bury my dead from before me.” (Genesis 23:4). This passage shows us that dead bodies are not something to be left on show. Burial is not a judgement on man as we can gather from passages such as Isaiah 14:12-20 which speaks of Lucifer’s sad end. Then we similarly learn that not to have a burial is a serious matter (Ecclesiastes 6:3). Rather, it is putting the consequences of death (God’s judgement on man - Genesis 2:16/17) out of sight. Christ Himself was buried as he had suffered death vicariously for mankind. He was in fact anointed for his burial by a woman as recorded in Matthew 26:12 and in Mark 14:8. See also John 12:7 which is probably the same incident.

It is worth noticing that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and many others throughout the Old Testament were buried. However, the evil Jezebel was not (2 Kings 9:30-37). In Jeremiah 22:18/19 we find that Jehoiakim was given “the burial of an ass, dragged along and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem” In the New Testament John the Baptist was buried (Matthew 14:12) also Ananias and Sapphira were buried (Acts 5:6&10), perhaps showing that though they had grievously sinned they were in fact Christians. Stephen was also buried (Acts 8:2). However, there is nothing said about a burial for Judas Iscariote (Matthew 27:3-10). See also what Peter says about him in Acts 1:15-20.         

Neither burial nor baptism is punishment for sins. That matter was settled by Christ on the cross for He said: “It is finished” then (John 19:30). We must distinguish between burial and corruption, Christ never saw this latter (see Psalm 16 and Acts 2:24-31) so we can be assured that He was not suffering for sins when He was in the grave. When Christ was buried He was in the hands of those who were his disciples (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea) and not his enemies (John 19:38-42, Matthew 27:57-61). His grave was not with the wicked (Isaiah 53:9).

That burial is something done to cleanse the land is stated in Ezekiel 39:11-16. It corresponds to baptism as we learn in Romans 6:4 as Paul says: “We have been buried...  with him by baptism unto death”. See also Colossians 2:12. Paul himself was baptised as Ananias said to him: “Arise and get baptised, and have thy sins washed away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). Note that the thought of cleansing is connected with it. As in the case of burial, one does not baptise oneself; it is the act of another. It is not something that affects us inwardly, but brings us on to Christian ground, and note it is something the Lord is to witness; hence we have the words “calling on his name” (see above). There may well be other witnesses, as in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, though Scripture says nothing as to them (Acts 8:36-39).

There are other things in Scripture where the thought of putting unseemly things out of sight is mentioned. For instance, we have the thought of covering up in Deuteronomy 23:12-14 regarding toiletry facilities. Then we are told that when there has been a leprous plague in a house the affected part, when the stones had been removed and new stones put in their place, the house should be plastered. This would mean not only that the plague had been eradicated but the site where it had been was not even visible (Leviticus 14 particularly verse 48). We are also told that love does not behave in an unseemly manner (1 Corinthians 13:5). “Love covereth all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12).

It is as well to note that the fact that Christ being in the grave three days and three nights showed there was a complete witness that Christ had really died (Matthew 12:40). Paul mentions that Christ was buried without comment (1 Corinthians 15:4), though the statement appears in the chapter where Paul is showing that there was a complete testimony to Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).

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