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Question and Answer

I just finished a book on a near-death experience in which a lady died, went to heaven, experienced a number of beautiful things, and returned to earth. What does the Bible say about these types of experiences?

The Bible says, “It is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment” (Heb. 9:27). There were a few exceptions to this general rule—people like the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17–24) or Lazarus (John 11:1–44) and some others who were resurrected from the dead in both the Old and the New Testaments. Yet, none of these people ever related their experiences after death. Although this is an argument from silence, it seems their lack of any message about heaven indicates that they did not recall their heavenly experience. Only the Lord Jesus, who was resurrected to immortality, could speak of heaven and teach about it.

What does the Bible say about cremation versus standard burial? If a person is cremated, will he or she still have a physical body in the resurrection?

Many people wonder whether God can raise up a cremated person at the resurrection. The answer is simple—if God can raise a decomposed body or one lost at sea or burned in a house fire, He certainly can raise someone who has been cremated into a pile of ashes. The whole idea of resurrection from the dead is miraculous and beyond our capacity to comprehend.

Although there is no verse of Scripture that absolutely forbids it, Mike Fabarez gives a biblical case in support of burial in his book, 10 Mistakes People Make about Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife.

He begins with Paul’s commentary on the value of the created body: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19). Our bodies are sacred vessels and worthy of dignity, even after death.

Second, the Bible demonstrates the concern people had when burying loved ones. These include Sarah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the Lord Jesus. There was even a serious effort to give a decent burial to the bones of the burned bodies of King Saul and his sons (1 Sam. 31:8–13).

Third, in the Bible, burial was considered a mark of dignity for the deceased. Solomon wrote, “A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he” (Eccl. 6:3). In biblical times, the failure to have a dignified burial was considered a terrible disgrace.

Whatever decision you make regarding cremation, here are a few final thoughts. First, don’t worry if a loved one was cremated. God can raise up stones to praise Him and He can resurrect our bodies from ashes. Second, start preparing now for your burial. Save money for the type of funeral you desire. Most important of all, make sure you’re ready to meet the Lord today. We need to trust that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, so if God were to say, “This day your soul is required of you,” you’ll be ushered into His presence and be there forever!

Why couldn't Esau find repentance for what he had done? Was his heart hardened beyond repair, or was his motive unforgivable?

Your question is based on Hebrews 12:17 which says of Esau, “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (NASB). Other translations make it sound as if Esau sincerely sought repentance and could not find it because he was rejected by God. But that’s not the meaning of the verse.

The Greek grammar allows two possible antecedents for the word “it.” In English we look for the previous noun to match the pronoun. That’s not how the Greek works. Although the antecedent to “it” could be repentance, it is more likely that what Esau sought for with tears was his father’s blessing. Esau had repented not about doing wrong but only about selling the birthright to his brother. This interpretation is supported by the Genesis account. After Isaac gave the blessing to Jacob, Esau begged his father with tears. Hebrews 12:17 is alluding to Genesis 27:38: “Esau said to his father, ‘Do you only have one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!’ And Esau wept loudly.”

Several modern translations capture the nuance of Hebrews 12:17, but the NIV perhaps does it best. It reads, “Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” If Esau truly wanted to repent of his sin, God would have responded with mercy and grace, just as He will for us. As Psalm 51:17 says, “a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (NET).

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is a professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the host of Moody Radio’s Open Line with Michael Rydelnik. He is the author of 50 Most Important Bible Questions inspired by both his radio show and his columns for Today in the Word. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael also appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill.

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