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Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today
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How do Funerals Reflect Christian Beliefs About the Afterlife?
For Christians, a funeral service is a way of saying 'thank-you' to God for the person who has died and to celebrate their life. The funeral may take place at a church, or there is a chapel, with a vicar or priest leading the service.
There are a number of different elements of a funeral that reflect beliefs about the afterlife. These include:
Sections of the Bible will be read, offering comfort to the family and friends of the person who has died. Christians believe that God has power over death, and that believers will be in Heaven with God. There are many passages which support this view, for example, Jesus said:
This was Jesus’ way of saying that although people die, death is not the end of the story. Another popular passage that people read comes from Psalm 23. It says:
'Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.' Psalm 23:4
A Christian funeral usually includes a lot of songs. Like the Bible passages that are read, the songs often talk about the hope that people will live with God in heaven after they die. This one is about being with Jesus in heaven:
"When I stand in glory, I will see His face, and there I'll serve my King forever in that holy place."
There is a Redeemer, by Melody Green
Sometimes a candle is lit. Candles are a symbol of Jesus, the 'Light of the World,' saviour of all humanity. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, people who accept him in their lives are saved from sin and can enter Heaven. This can also bring peace to the family and friends of Christians who have died, knowing that their loved ones are in Heaven.
After the funeral service, the coffin is buried underground and a memorial stone can be placed at the head of the grave. In most funeral services the Minister will say,
"We commit this body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
In this way, people are reminded that we are all human and made by God; that we were made from the ground and will return to the ground.
Some choose a traditional funeral such as this burial, as they believe that the body is needed for the physical resurrection on judgement day. However, increasingly common is the choice of cremation. Many Christians believe that the physical body isn't needed, that it is just the soul which will go on into the afterlife.