Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
I recently had a fascinating conversation. It went like this.
I was chatting with some relatives. The subject was about something very old that had been refurbished. I made the remark, “It will last for another X years or until the Lord returns.” “That is a very odd statement,” came the reply, “I’ve never heard anyone say that before. What do you mean by that?” “It is a common Christian saying,” I replied simply. “I’ve never heard anyone say it,” came the reply from the person who has a Catholic background, “What do you mean by that?” Now, knowing the person would at least be familiar with the Apostles Creed, I said/cited, “Well, the Apostles Creed says Jesus will ‘come again, to judge the living and the dead.’” Rather than provoking more conversation this resulted in the person saying, “Ok, Chris, let’s stop being religious.” (Though I know they had been struck even by this truth).
Behind the surface discomfort with “religion” this individual was unnerved by at least 2 things: Jesus’ coming judgement, and [related] their own mortality.
The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death” (both physical and eternal) (Ro 6:23a).
Jesus' return, which is a glorious prospect to the believer, is a terror to the unbeliever, because they are ill prepared to meet the Judge.
Death is likewise a haunt because it foils our pride that believes we are immortal and ushers in Judgement.
People fear death and judgement. (And they mock us for reminding them of their deepest fear. However, when they do their conscience has been pricked and we need to pray for them).
The good news is this person, and the many unbelievers who live under this tumultuous burden, may have peace if they believe in the Gospel. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (Those who have become recipients of the love of God through faith in Jesus).
May they stop putting off the thought, seeking to suppress the reality, and repent and trust in Jesus today.
This is not a question unique to today (though emotionalism and universalism perhaps make it more difficult to address). Infants died in Bible times, pioneer Ontario, and indeed still today. Although infant mortality has decreased, still children die, particularly the unborn (miscarriage, abortion, the disposal of embryos in fertility treatments, etc). So long as there are children and so long as there is sin and death this question will be relevant.
Before I begin to give a basic and introductory response, I want to emphasise that I do not embark on seeking to answer this question as if from a distance. My wife and I lost numerous children through miscarriage and we have had close friends and family members suffer the loss of both unborn and newborn children. Something else that I must stress before I proceed is that this question is often approach through emotionalism. While our affections have a role to play we must submit ourselves to Scripture, conceding that our ways are not God’s ways (Isa 55:8–9). Generally when we are uncomfortable about something in the Bible God is correct and we are wrong. If you proceed in reading this blog please pause, pray and be open to reason [or reasoning] (James 3:17). Christianity is like a train and the order of that train is important. First must come the train, then the car and finally the caboose. Put another way, first must come fact (or the promises and truths of God), then faith (or belief in those) and then feeling. Get the order wrong and the train soon runs off the track to wherever we want it to go. Get the order right and it runs smoothly along.
The question centres around salvation and namely, if the Bible teaches original sin and the need of salvation (which it clearly does), what about children? It also touches upon our beliefs about what the character of God should be in relation to this question, either leaning toward His love (how could a loving God allow…) or His justice (God is soft on sin if...).
Numerous passages and verses in the Bible teach original sin, but three are perhaps most pertinent to this subject.
The first is Psalm 51:5 where the Spirit says through David: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. This verse teaches that not only from birth but from conception we are sinners.
The second is Ro 5:12, which addresses why we are born sinners. Here the Spirit says through Paul: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. This means that because the head of the human race—Adam—sinned, all humans are born sinners (original sin). Not only are we born guilty sinners but we also co-opt into sin through sinful choices throughout our lives.
Thirdly, and perhaps the most challenging, come passages like Deut 20:16–18 and 1 Sam 15:2–3 where the Spirit says the following about the destruction of the Canaanites:
2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
We must remember that these passages speak of judgement because of societal sin of a great magnitude (with simply a different means to address it being commanded than against say Sodom and Gomorrah). It does not spell genocide. Traditionally this total judgment has been understood by Christians as a real event backed up by archaeology, but also as a picture of hell.
If children had no sin, children wouldn’t die, because death—generally speaking—comes from sin (Ro 6:23b).
In light of these three passages, we return to the question.
There have been at least 8 ways that Christendom has sought to answer this question.
 In 2020 there were 1622 infant deaths under the age of one (or 4.2%), 74,155 abortions and untold deaths of embryos in fertility clinics.
 I believe it is possible to differentiate between the immorality of abortion for instance and issues of infant salvation. One is a moral issue and the other spiritual.
 Jesus saying, “let the little come to me” has as little to do with salvation as it does baptism, rather Jesus is breaking down barriers in the apostles hearts, because the Gospel was not meant for “us” (the disciples or the Jews) but for them (Jews and Gentiles and all who believe).
 This is very similar to forms of universalism where it is believed people will get a second chance before entering heaven to believe (but see Heb 9:27).
From our summer Five Minute Moment (5MM) People’s Choice, someone asked me afterwards about what the Bible says about Cremation. This is a great question and incidentally one of the most frequent questions I receive, especially from those with more life behind them than ahead of them.
Traditionally cremation was only an Eastern practice. It has become more common in formerly Western Christian lands in recent years, particularly in places such as Europe or North American cities which have less ground available for burials or where this ground is expensive. Even here there is a movement back against cremation to natural burials because of environmental concerns.
The Bible doesn’t explicitly touch on the subject of cremation but it does provide a number of compelling principles that weightily inform a Christian perspective.
From start to finish there is a story of burial and hope of a bodily resurrection in the Bible.
As early as Gen 15:15 there is mention of burial, and though the practice was to be buried in a tomb (Gen 23:6), there is a sense in which a burial is a burial. It was the Egyptians and Babylonians who used coffins and embalming, in preparation for their future life. The greatest example of burial is of course the Lord Jesus, who was buried and on the third day rose (1 Cor 15:4). Because the Bible says Jesus will return from the east Christian graves traditionally always faced that direction, in anticipation.
Likewise, a bodily resurrection is the hope of the believer. The wages of sin is death (Ro 3:23). Though we are spiritually ensured eternal life upon belief, the physical benefit awaits the Resurrection. The Old Testament foresaw the Resurrection in verses like Isa 26:19a and 53:11a. It became a key tenet of the Pharisees (Acts 24:21). In fulfilment of these foreshadowing’s, and Christ’s own Resurrection, is the promise that the believer will share in a resurrection like His (Ro 6:5). This is why Christians have always believed in the Resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting (Apostles Creed).
The Bible values the entire person and so the entire person, including the body, is treated with respect both during life and after death (hence why we don’t desecrate graves).
Not so in Eastern religions (from which we get cremation). Here the body is of little consequence in comparison to the soul. Eastern religions believe the body can impede the soul from moving on to its next journey. As such, the cremation and funeral is undertaken speedily in order to free the soul.
The grand theme of the Bible is one of burial and resurrection. While there are no commands to “be buried” the weight of these principles and the living example of Scripture is why Christians traditionally have always buried their dead. In fact amongst the Eastern Orthodox (and Orthodox Jews) cremation is prohibited.
Yet we know people can die terrible deaths, be eaten, incineration, exploded or suffer death at sea. Certainly the power of the Lord is able to resurrect their bodies, even from dust. He can do the same with cremated bodies. Still the imagery and care of the body is absent in cremation.
I am not going to be cremated. I don’t believe it is prohibited in Scripture but I also don’t believe it is encouraged. Like the Lord Jesus and the saints before Him, it is my wish to follow his example and be buried. There my body will await His return.
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