On Funerals, Death, and the Resurrection
No direct revelation has ever been received on the subject of funerals. However, the instructions given below are regarded as inspired and have always been used by NCAY. Their inclusion in the revelations reflects this long-standing position. A detailed doctrinal treatment of the nature of the soul, the spirit, the body, the resurrection, translation, thaumaturgy, transfiguration, and related matters, preceeds the discourse on funerals and its doctrinal correctness confirmed by a later revelation (NC&C 155:8) [Gausel, Stavanger & Rosenborg, Oslo, Norway].
Of Life, Death, the Soul and the Resurrection
1. To the Messianic Evangelical, death is but another birth or a removal from one state of existence into another.
2. It is the separation of the immortal spiritual body from the mortal physical body which, thus parted from its source of life, disintegrates into its component elements and becomes integrated into other living creatures or moves freely through various physical substances like water and air.
3. The effects of the spirit on the animation of the physical body is no better illustrated than in the Biblical stories of the son of the widow of Nain (Lk.7:11-17) and of Lazarus, the friend of Yah'shua (Jesus) (Jn.11-12);
4. The former had been dead recently, we suppose, but the latter had been dead some days and the body was, according to the Besorah (Gospel), rapidly decomposing.
5. By the power of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) Yah'shua (Jesus) performed two thaumaturgies -- or the bringing back to life of two dead bodies in different stages of decomposition.
6. In both cases the original material substances were revitalised and reorganised, and restored to their original form.
7. We must suppose that the bodies were restored to their original ages for there is no record anywhere of anyone being supernaturally returned to a physically younger age.
8. Thaumaturgy should not be confused with translation which is the temporary suspension of the aging and death process so that to all intents and purposes the one thus translated remains physically in a state of suspended animation whilst being free to act spiritually through such a physical body.
9. Translation, moreover, is not resurrection which is a permanent joining of spirit and flesh which can never thereafter be separated, like the yeast and dough after they have been baked into bread.
10. The best examples of translations are Enoch and Melchizedek who, according to biblical and New Covenant tradit- ion, were completely removed from this sphere.
11. Transfiguration, such as occured to Yah'shua (Jesus) and witnessed by Peter, James and John (Mt.17:2) is not translation but a revealing of a hidden spiritual glory not otherwise perceived by the physical eyes.
12. It may also be seen as a special outpouring of power and glory from Elohim (God), as in the case of Moses (Ex.4:29-30,35), to enable the mortal man to stand in the presence of Elohim (God) for a short while without being utterly consumed.
13. Yah'shua (Jesus) was resurrected with the original physical body that lay in the grave for three days.
14. Having performed His labour in the world of spirits (1 Pet.3:19), He returned to take up His body from the tomb and to join both together.
15. To this day He remains as a resurrected Personage, being made up of spirit and matter inseparately connected.
16. This is one of the most fundamental doctrines of the Besorah (Gospel), being indeed the basis of the Christian Evangel.
17. It should not be thought, however, that the resurrected body is of exactly the same substance as our earthly bodies, which are fallen, for the resurrected body is perfect and without blemish.
18. It is also of a quality and dimension that allows it to pass through physical substance as witnessed by Jesus passing through a wall when He met with His talmidim (disciples) following the resurrection.
The Resurrection is Physical
19. That we are to understand that the resurrection is to be a physical one and not just a "spiritual" phenomenon is demonstrated both by the fact that the body of Messiah disappeared from the tomb and the fact that Yah'shua (Jesus) invited His talmidim (disciples) to handle and touch His resurrected body, something He would not have done had He been merely a spirit-being or "ghost".
20. Those that maintain that Yah'shua's (Jesus') resurrection was merely spiritual are in fact accusing the Son of Elohim (God) of deliberate deception and the talmidim (disciples) of rank ignorance.
21. An added testimony of the physicalness of the resurrection, not forgetting that He also partook of physical food -- fish and bread -- are His numerous post-resurrection appearances in Israel.
22. Emanating from these historical and scriptural witnesses is a very important doctrine -- that the physical is not something to be fled or transcended or to be regarded as evil, but a substance to be brought into harmony with the spirit and made subject to it.
The False Doctrince of "Spiritual Resurrection"
23. Opposing the Christian doctrine of matter is the essentially oriental teaching that matter is to be transcended, that the highest peak of perfection is the total breaking away from matter to allow supposed reabsorption into an amorphous, impersonal, ubiquitous "Elohim (God)".
24. The message of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is that matter is fallen and needs to be redeemed and restored to its proper place in the eternal scheme of things, and that this was why Yah'shua (Jesus) was incarnated on earth as the Elohim (God)-man.
25. (Redemption also covers the spiritual but here we are more interested in the physical).
26. If man is not to be physically resurrected then the central witness of the Besorah (Gospel) is false.
27. Such a doctrine of "spiritual resurrection" lies at the heart of most false teachings .
Yah'shua (Jesus) is the Resurrection
28. Yah'shua (Jesus) is the best documented example of a resurrection.
29. He is termed the "firstfruits" of the resurrection, which means that nobody was resurrected before Him.
30. Yah'shua (Jesus) thus lies at the centre and heart of the resurrection.
31. There is a scriptural record of various graves being opened following Messiah's death and resurrection and of the appearance of several dead people who were the first people to be resurrected as far as we know (Mt.27:5-53).
32. Presumably these people were taken up to heaven soon afterwards for their presence would have caused a stir that would have undoubtedly appeared in the histories of that time.
33. We see, therefore, that thaumaturgies, translations and transfigurations involve the supernatural action of divine forces on the actual physical bodies of those living or those who have recently been dead.
34. Though it is possible that thaumaturgy could be practiced on a body in an advanced state of physical decomposition there is no record anywhere in scripture or mundane history to indicate that this has been done.
35. We are aware of satanic, occult powers being used to animate dead bodies that have recently died though in these cases the original spirit inhabitants -- the original personalities that occupied them before death -- do not return.
36. These "living dead" are either soulless physical bodies or the bodies of the dead possessed by evil spirits who, because these bodies are not their natural ones, cannot properly syncretise with them nor live with them as normal human beings.
37. Such activity is contrary to the design of nature and is achieved only by using dark powers utterly forbidden by Yahweh.
38. There are no examples, to my knowledge, of dark powers being used to thaumaturgise dead people (returning the original spirits of the dead to their recently separated bodies) or of thaumaturgisation or animation of bodies in a state of advanced decomposition.
39. The use of such powers does, of course, bring the operators of these powers under the bondage of Satan.
40. Such practices are known to have occurred -- and may still occur today -- in Tibet and elsewhere.
41. As Messianic Evangelicals we should not even show a passing interest in them but rather focus on the activities of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit).
In the Twinkling of an Eye
42. There is a second type of resurrection which, as far as I know, has never taken place but which has been reserved for those of the celestial glory at the time of Messiah's second return and during the millennium.
43. This is what one might call "twinkling of an eye" resurrection (1 Cor. 15:52), a resurrection which occurs without the tasting of death.
44. The transformation from mortality into immortality will be so fast as to be virtually unperceived by the one experiencing it.
45. There can be no mistaking this as a "spiritual" resurrection because there is no death involved -- that is, no separation of spirit from body which marks death -- no "breaking of the silver cord" (Eccl.12:6).
46. And since these "twinkling of an eye" resurrections must be physical it logically follows that the resurrection of those who have died, and have passsed into the worlds of spirit, are physical too.
47. To conclude otherwise is to discard all the scriptures on this subject, and therefore the testimony of Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself and the testimony of those who knew Him and taught only what He taught them .
FUNERALS IN NCAY
Historical Background of Burial and Cremation
48. There can be no proper understanding of what a funeral is without an understanding of resurrection.
49. Traditionally burial has been the usual way of disposing of dead bodies in Christendom because it has been supposed that the resurrection would take place using the original matter of the deceased person -- that the spirit of the dead would return to the decomposed body in the place where it was buried.
50. Such a theory never seemed to take into account the problems caused by the accidental or deliberate death of those by burning, sea burials or death by consumption by wild animals on land or in the sea.
Dispersion of Elements
51. Clearly in a large number of instances the constituents of such bodies are dispersed quickly into the environment.
52. The only difference between such dispersal and the decomposition of a body in the grave is that in the grave the process is considerably slower (particularly in cold climates) --
53. Dispersion still takes place so that, apart from (in the majority of cases) the bones, nothing of the original elementssurvive even in the locality of the original corpse.
The Resurrection: New Elements
54. It is therefore clear that resurrection cannot take place involving original substances that made up the living physical body which in any case is not constant even in life, undergoing a constant process of exchange and interchange with the environment through breathing, nutrition and excretion.
55. The physical body is not like a house which year after year is made of the same building materials (assuming they are not replaced) for the "bricks" (molecules) of the body are constantly changing.
56. There is no part of the mortal physical body that we can point to and say: "This is permanently mine".
Burning and Buddhist Practices
57. Other cultures practice the burning of corpses and some more gruesome (like the Tibetan Buddhists) involve feeding them to vultures and other wild animals.
58. Cremation -- or the burning of bodies -- is now an accepted way of disposing of dead bodies in many quarters of Christendom.
59. There is clearly no advantage to the dead person (who is now a spirit) as to how or where his physical body is disposed for he knows that in the resurrection he will receive a fresh body from fresh elements.
Appearances in the Resurrection
60. There is, moreover, evidence that the resurrected body will not have exactly the same appearance to the physical body worn in mortality -- that it will more exactly mirror our spiritual bodies which change in appearance as we are sanctified (or, if evil, corrupted).
61. That Mary mistook Yah'shua (Jesus), whom she knew intimately in mortality, for the gardner in Gethsemane, suggests that the resurrected Yah'shua (Jesus) was of slightly different appearance to the mortal Yah'shua (Jesus).
62. From my own personal experience I know that the spirit body appears very different from the physical body we wear in mortality, being of a far greater order of beauty as we grow in Messiah.
Inward and Outer Beauty
63. To some extent our physical bodies mirror this sanctification though never to the extent that the physical body actually changes.
64. We should not forget that the servant of Elohim (God), Job, though appearing revolting outwardly because of his disease, was spiritually one of the most beautiful sons of Elohim (God) that has ever lived because of his righteousness.
65. We should therefore ever be mindful of the saying of Yah'shua (Jesus) not to judge outwardly, which He has reitterated many, many times in the revelations of the New Covenant, but to judge righteously according to the spiritual eyes (Jn.7:24).
66. It therefore seems more than probable that those who have little beauty outwardly but who are spiritually of great beauty through Messiah, will receive bodiesin the resurrection that exactly mirror their inner spirits;
67. And that those who are beautiful or handsome outwardly, whose inner spirits are ugly and distorted, will bear outwardly a lesser glory and beauty than those of the reverse.
Flexibility in Funeral Proceedures
68. Doctrinally speaking, then, it is not important to the Messianic Evangelical whether he is buried in the ground or burned, for the elements that constituted his living body are no longer "his" but are returned to mother earth -- slowly or fast, depending on the method of disposal.
69. It is therefore the policy of NCAY to allow each individual to decide how he or she wishes his body to be disposed -- or the relatives of the deceased if no instructions were left in life.
Showing Sensitivity to the Grieving
70. Though the dead body may be of no interest to the deceased it may be of importance to the loved ones of the deceased.
71. Funerals are essentially for the benefit of those on earth who still have physical bodies.
The "Spiritually Dead"
72. Yah'shua (Jesus) displays two seemingly contradictory attitutes towards death and funerals; on the one hand He advised one of His talmidim (disciples) to "let the [spiritually] dead bury the [physically] dead" upon receiving a request for permission to bury his father (Lk.9:60);
73. And on the other Yah'shua (Jesus) allowed the ceremonial anointing of His body for burial by the woman with expensive perfume (Lk.7:37ff).
The Symbolism of Burial
74. The symbolism of burial is, of course, vitally important to the Christian belief in spiritual death and rebirth, and it is probably for this reason that burial in the ground became the normative pattern of internment in the Christian Church.
75. It is reasonable to conclude that physical burial of a corpse is by way of an ordinance for those still living, a graphic portrayal of the tenuousness of life in this sphere and of the terribleness of sin.
Death Must Be Faced by All
76. Death must, in the end, be faced by everyone, and experienced by all save those who will undergo a "twinkling of an eye" resurrection.
77. The dead body, whilst practically useless to the departed spirit, remains, at least for a little while, as a symbol of great power and potency to the living, and especially to those who were especially close to the deceased.
78. Those deep and poignant feelings are of the uppermost importance in preparing and executing a funeral.
A Personal Experience
79. It was my painful task some years ago to preside over the funeral of a small boy whose family were amongst the first members of this community.
80. Though I had attended many funerals before, I had never attended the funeral of one whose family I felt especially close to. It was, therefore, a deep and poignant experience for me.
81. With no scriptural guidelines from Yahweh on how a funeral was to beconducted, it had to be done on the basis of pure inspiration.
Breaking the Links with the Living
82. Though the spirit of a dead person has departed from a body the form still remains.
83. That form, or shape, is a connecting link with the departed spirit so long as it (the body) is visible.
84. Concealing the body is therefore a part of the completion of the process of dissolving the links of the deaceased to this world of physical form, at least as far as those on earth are concerned.
85. Whether the body is put on display during the funeral or hidden is not for me to say. This must be a personal decision.
86. Making it visible does, of course, prolong the agony of loved ones, and may only serve to postpone the necessary breaking of that physical bond which was once so strong.
87. Attitudes toward the body will vary according to the inner nature of the loved ones in mortality.
Emotional Grief is Normal
88. Under no circumstances are they to be judged as being "unspiritual" or "unsanctified" if they show great emotional displays, but should be allowed full expression of their grief.
89. The externalisation of deeply held emotions in an environment of loving support and care is of great therapeutic value; suppressed emotions may actually cause great spiritual damage.
Ministering to the Berieved
90. Ministering to the berieved is one of the most important pastoral functionsof a minister and must be done with great sensitivity.
91. If the minister is in doubt as to what to say, he should keep quiet, but maintain a presence so long as this is desired by the berieved.
92. He must allow space when space is required, and be present whenever, and for as long as, that is required.
93. Ill-chosen words can cause great damage spiritually and only increase the agony of the deceased.
94. The minister should not make promises about the spiritual state of the deceased in order to comfort the berieved unless he receives direct revelation to do so, but should gently rehearse the spiritual promises and teachings of Yah'shua (Jesus) about the resurrection.
95. For myself in the experience described above Yahweh blessed me with a vision of the resting place of the dead boy in the world of spirits which I was able to relate to the parents and thus offer some spiritual comfort3.
96. But by far the most important ministry is a manifestation of Christian love and care, after the death and funeral, to preclude the natural tendency of the emergence of bitterness and possible animosity towards Elohim (God) which not in- frequently arises when people have an imperfect love of Elohim (God) and do not fully understand the Besorah (Gospel).
Concerning the Death of the Old and the Young
97. For such regular ministry will almost certainly be required for a long time afterwards, especially if the loss is of a little child or of a youth or young spouse.
98. Death of old people is taken more philosophically by the old but may not be so well understood by children or grandchildren.
99. It may be safely assumed, though, that someone somewhere is suffering when any death takes place, and it may not necessarily be a family member.
100. It should never be assumed that ministry is not required by someone.
101. The dead body should be respected as far as possible as a former "temple of the spirit".
102. For many berieved people the dead body is still their loved one for they cannot make a distinction between spirit and flesh, the flesh being that most visible and intimate aspect of their awareness of the person in life.
An Intermediate Substance
103. Though the main spirit has departed from the physical body there is still an intermediate substance, which is called by various names, which lingers on and emanates the vibrations peculiar to the deceased person.
104. It does not depart as suddenly as the spirit but rather dissolves away over a number of days.
105. It is not until this substance has finally gone that it may be said that the personality, at least, has finally departed.
106. Postponing burial before this has happened is not, however, important and there is no reason why burial should not proceed as soon after the death as possible.
The Possibility of Thaumaturgy
107. Nevetheless, weighed against this is the very real possibility that the spirit may return to the body which has been dead and it is not unknown for people to come back to life several days after the body has been pronounced clinically dead.
108. A space of a few days may therefore be deemed prudent between the medical pronouncement of death and burial.
109. And in rare cases it is possible that the Lord intends His ministers, through the power of the Ruach (Spirit), to bring back the dead to life for some special reason.
110. Having said this, though, relatives of the dead should not request special blessings for the dead from the Elders in the hope that they will be returned to life.
111. Such activity may only prolong the agony and sow disappointment resulting in undermined faith.
The Theme of Funeral Services
112. Funeral services should be short and dignified and should be so structured as to respect the feelings of the berieved and to give them the maximum ministry.
113. The theme of the service and short sermon should always be the resurrection.
114. Long and flowery eulogies to the deceased should be avoided.
115. A few remarks about his or her life, highlighting the best qualities of the person, are certainly desirable.
116. Assurance, born of personal conviction, that the deceased is in good hands and happy (unless he was evil) should be made, along with assurance that the spiritual family of Messiah transcends the veil, is desirable.
117. A few remarks on the Spirit of Elijah may be helpful.
118. The sermon should NOT be a doctrinal discourse but practical and of immediate value.
119. The sermon should always witness of Messiah and include a strong element of hope.
120. In the midst of sorrow an element of thanks and praise to Yahweh should be made within the bounds of the solemnity of the occasion.
121. The sermon, and the service as a whole, should uplift and bring spiritual healing through the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit).
122. The presiding minister must be carefully selected and must believe in what he is preaching.
123. He must not break down emotionally but take control of the situation.
124. The congregation will be vunerable and thus a strong, loving fatherly presence is essential to reflect the concern and love of the Heavenly Father.
125. Neither should the minister be cold, emotionless and distant, but must be both intimately a part of the spirit of the occasion as well as apart from it.
126. He should always discern the mood and act accordingly under the impress of revelation.
127. The minister must also be cogniscent of the fact that there may be unbelievers present at a funeral and he must minister to these too.
128. He is not there to preach to them yet he is nevertheless a witness of Messiah.
129. He must minister as Messiah would minister in person, to the converted as well as the uncoverted.
130. The service should be quiet, peaceful and reverent.
131. Only on special occasions should a spirit of praise be introduced.
132. The service should not be grave, sullen or morbid but should be uplifting in an intelligent, subtle and unobtrusive way.
133. Long hymns should not be used in the service, neither should there be many.
134. Half-an-hour to forty minutes should be long enough for the entire service.
135. Those present should be able to look back upon the service and draw strength from it when they call the deceased into remembrance.
136. Two or three short hymns should be enough. Many may not feel like singing at all.
137. Let one of the hymns be for contemplation only -- something beautiful and evocative of the Kingdom of Heaven.
138. There should be no noisy or dramatic hymns or pieces of music, no funeral marches or requiems unless these have been specifically requested.
139. If the deceased has requested specific songs, or a specific program of music and readings, honour that request as far as you can.
140. If musical instruments are played, make sure good musicians are used who will not give a poor performance. Pre-recorded music may well be the best.
141. Make sure that the music used in the funeral is not used in Assembly services for a good long time if relatives of the deceased meet in that local Assembly, as it may evoke painful memories and spoil their worship.
142. The minister must therefore be prophetic and accutely sensitive.
Avoid Lavish Funerals
143. Elaborate and expensive funerals are a bad example of the faith and should be avoided.
144. The service should be kept simple at all times.
145. Flowers may be presented as tokens of respect for the deceased and add beauty to the occasion.
146. NCAY should have the final authority in making all the arrangements if the deceased has requested this whilst of course honouring unbelieving family members' wishes wherever practicable and desirable.
Salvation Concerns Only the Living
147. It should be made clear that the funeral service and mode of disposal -- burial or cremation -- is not a question of salvation.
148. Salvation was determined at the deceased's death and not afterwards.
Service of Remembrance
149. If no body is available a service of remembrance should be held.
150. It is a tradition in Christianity to bury the faithful on consecrated or holy ground.
151. In NCAY a similar tradition has followed in which the minister dedicates the burial ground as the place for the resurrection of the body.
Life, Death, the Soul and the Resurrection
152. It may not, of course, be Yahweh's will that the resurrection occur at that place in which case such a blessing will be more symbollic than literal.
153. It is desirable, however, that the ground be blessed so that the body remains undisturbed until it has dissolved back into the ground.
154. The burial or cremation prayer may be prepared beforehand or given spontaneously according to the disposition of the minister. A suggested structure for a burial prayer is as follows:
155. "In the Name of our Master and Deliverer Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) who by His blood has made possible the eternal resurrection of all mankind, I bless, dedicate and consecrate this ground by the authority and power of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, to be the final resting place of -----------, that his/her body may remain undisturbed until it has returned back into the earth;
156. "That this spot be set apart as the place of the resurrection according to the will of the Eternal Father, when all the qodeshim (saints) arise from the grave to meet the Saviour in that day of triumph and glory when He returns. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Amen."
157. The prayer should be short and to the point and may be read either before the body is lowered into the grave or as it is lowered.
Other Customs: Earth & Flowers
158. The custom of throwing a handful of earth into the grave and/or flowers is up to the berieved.
159. Having said all of this local needs may dictate a different procedure.
160. Providing the essential elements are present flexibility should be allowed.
The Scattering of Ashes
161. In cremations the ashes may be inturned or buried or scattered and prayers should be adapted for the different circumstances.
No Revelation on Funerals
162. It is interesting that no revelations have ever been given on funerals and may possibly never be.
163. It is up to us what we do, therefore, provided it is in harmony with the Besorah (Gospel) and brings to pass the greatest love and ministry possible both for the living and the dead.
164. The points and procedures outlined above are derived from my own personal experience in administering a funeral when I had no guidelines at hand save for the Davar Elohim (Word of God) and the burning witness of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which guided my preparations and execution of this, one of the most difficult ministries a disciple of Christ may be called to give. Amen.
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This page was first created on 26 March 1998
Last updated on 31 December 2013
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