"O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come." (Psalm 71:17–18—NIV)

There is no command in the Bible to burn the body of our departed loved ones, nor is there a command not to do so. If God had prohibited the practice of cremation then there would have been debate as to the eternal consequences when believers perished by fire. But the practice of cremation has been more common among pagans than among believers. Believers know from Scripture that all men will be bodily resurrected, the blood-bought redeemed to eternal life and the unredeemed to eternal judgment. Is it any wonder that Christians generally bury their dead in such a fashion as best pictures their theology?

The very word "cemetery" comes from a Greek word meaning "a sleeping place" from a root word meaning "to put to sleep." The word is a fitting reminder of Paul’s words "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14)

Paul states in Romans 6:5, "for if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." Paul is showing the significance of believer’s baptism by immersion as a fitting symbol of identity with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and in so doing he employs the imagery of gardening. The gardener, full of hope, prepares the soil to receive seeds. He then places the seeds in the ground totally disregarding the fact that the seed does not in the least resemble the harvest of vegetables he desires at the end of the season. Thus the seed is planted in expectation of the bountiful harvest. Believers need to remember what they are proclaiming as they record their final wishes.

Our text from Psalms admonishes us to be sure that the glory of God is in every act of our lives, even after death. Our forefathers knew this when they took the time to have spiritual lessons carved on their headstones. Though time and weather may erode their words for the descendents of future generations, the words were never lost to the loved ones who would in subsequent days retrace their steps to the quiet ground, and once again stand beside them, remembering. As the living looked after the grave of their loved one, their eyes would inevitably rest upon the blessed hope inscribed in words of stone saying what the silent vocal cords can no longer say.

Every time believers gather beside a quiet cemetery plot into which they place the body of a departed saint they hallow that ground as a monument to the miracle working power of God. That very spot will be the site of a miracle when God rebuilds the body of their loved one and quickens them as He unites body and spirit on resurrection day! Only Christians know the true meaning of a cemetery.

What will you be stating at your funeral? Will your will, your plans, your service, your committal, and your headstone reflect in simple majesty, unmistakable imagery, and eloquent meaning the blessed hope of the saints? Trust and obey.