Q: Is it biblical to have funeral services in church? Isn’t it a counterfeit of our belief on the state of the dead? — Odala, from Malawi
A: As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe the biblical teaching that “the dead know nothing,” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6), and that when a person dies, “his thoughts perish” (Psalms 146:4). In other words, the Bible teaches that death is an unconscious sleep, from which the deceased will not awaken until they are resurrected by God in the last day (John 5:28; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Because the dead know nothing, the funeral service, while honoring the deceased, is actually for the comfort and encouragement of the living. To have this service in a church takes nothing away from our belief in the state of the dead.
A funeral service (or a memorial service) is also an excellent opportunity to draw people to Jesus. When someone dies, it’s a stark reminder that we are all mortal, and that one day we all will die (unless we live to see Jesus come). The death of a close friend or loved one gives a special opportunity for some very serious thinking about the meaning of life, and whether or not there is anything beyond the few years we spend here on this planet.
A meaningful funeral/memorial service can bring hope and encouragement through beautiful, uplifting music, shared memories, and a hopeful, Biblical message. Where this service is held — whether in a church, or a funeral home, or outdoors, or some other place is not as important as the biblical message of hope that is presented.