Question: The question was recently posed to me: “How soon after death can someone be cremated?  How much time is necessary for any spiritual processes to take place?”  This is an interesting question because it allowed me to share some of our basic understanding concerning our humanity and what happens when we die.  I will share my brief response below.  

Answer: The ‘short’ answer to your question is that the body can be cremated immediately after death is confirmed.  For a little more discussion, however …  Our understanding of humanity is that we’re three-part beings. (Though some will say two, but that’s a bit of semantics on how one distinguishes soul and spirit).  We say that we’re body, soul and spirit.  The body is physical.  Modern (Western) science tries to claim that our life is just a result of chemical processes, neurons, synapses, and impulses.  But, as I’m sure you’d readily agree, that doesn’t begin to explain the full realm and breadth of experiences that people have – near death, after death, life itself: love, sadness, memories, etc. etc.  And that doesn’t agree with the Bible which tells us that God created Adam out of the dust of the earth (physical) but then breathed LIFE into him (spirit).  Interestingly, both the Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament) and Greek (the language of the New Testament) words for “spirit” actually are the same word for “breath” & “wind!”  So we have bodies, but we have the breath of God – Life – in us.  Then there’s the third part – our immortal soul.  This soul is our ‘personhood’ our ‘being’ if you will.  This soul, we believe lives on even after the body has expired.  In fact, on the last day, when Jesus returns, our souls will be reunited with our bodies and we will live forever.  … the part of the Bible that people don’t like to hear, though, is that some will live forever at peace with God, and some will live forever separated from Him.  This relationship that we enjoy with God at the end of our life and the end of days is determined by the relationship we established during our life on earth.  In other words, some have said: at death people get the God of their choosing.  If they want God, they get Him.  If they don’t want God and refused to believe in Him and acknowledge His one and only Son – they have eternity without Him.

So back to the question… Cremation only affects the body.  It can harm neither the soul or spirit.  On the day when Jesus returns, the Bible tells us that God will raise our bodies from wherever they are.  How can he do this?  Well – I can’t explain how he created the universe, or made man in the first place, so I don’t begin to understand how he can resurrect the dead.  I just know that Jesus demonstrated this power both in himself and in others.  He’s the only person/being to ever have lived that commanded life and death.   And so in short, this is our faith and this is our hope.