The principle of rest can be traced back as far as the time when God prepared the Earth for human habitation. (Gen.2: 2).
During the Old Testament time, “rest” was enforced to the extent that work on the Sabbath was punishable by death (Ex.31: 15).
This was one of the allegations that were brought against the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt.12: 10).
One of the expressions for disposing of the human remains upon physical death is that the “person was laid to rest”.
This of course is not true as the “person” does not die, only the body is “laid to rest”. The person, at the moment of physical death, leaves the body and enters into the eternal state.
Remember that our own funeral is one that “we” will not be attending. Our bodies will be there, but “we” will not.
The expression “laid to rest” is in reference to the time when the physical body that decomposes and “returns
to dust” awaits the physical transformation of the body at the Rapture. Once transformed, it becomes the permanent eternal body in which we will dwell in for all of eternity.
Born again believers who physically die prior to the Rapture (the majority of all Christians) dwell in an interim spiritual body apparently similar to what Moses & Elijah (Matt.17: 3) appeared in during the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the Rapture, believers who are dwelling in their interim bodies in Heaven and believers who are alive in their physical bodies on the Earth are transformed into their permanent eternal bodies & meet the Lord in the air. (1Thess.4: 14-17).
Unbelievers, at the moment of physical death, depart and enter Hades, a place of torment, to await the final judgment when all unbelievers are cast into the fire of Hell & where they will remain for all of eternity. (Luke 16:23/Rev.20: 13-15).
Believers who have “fallen asleep” are presently in Heaven awaiting the Rapture. They are not in an unconscious state of mind, but are enjoying Heaven in the presence of the Lord.
Sleep in the Biblical sense is a reference to physical death.
There will never be a time when the “soul” sleeps, that is to be unconscious or unaware of its environment.
At death, the soul (the real you) is either at “rest” from the struggles of life on Earth, or is in Hades, a place of torment (Luke 16:23), awaiting the final judgment & inevitably the “lake of fire”. (Rev.20: 13-15).
It matters not if a person is buried, cremated, or for that matter if his body is even recoverable for disposal. Such events do not restrict God or His ability to transform the body, wherever it is, at the moment of the Rapture.
Funerals and/or memorial services provide “closure” for the family & friends of the dearly departed, but have no bearing on the eternal destiny of the soul or on the transforming of the body at the Rapture.
Many of the greatest and earliest martyrs died after being beheaded or otherwise mutilated. For many there were no funerals and they were buried in unknown or unmarked graves.
Jesus was not being insensitive to the man who wanted to bury his father before he left him and became a disciple. The passage does reveal however, that the disposal of one’s human remains is am issue of this life. It was Jesus who said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22 NIV). The focus of the spiritual life must be on the eternal, not the temporal issues.
If I were to mange a cemetery, I would have the following verse of Scripture inscribed over the gates that lead to the burial grounds where visitors would be certain to see it; “…Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5 NIV).
There is another “rest” that the Bible speaks of. This “rest” does not mean that our environment is one void of adversity. In fact, a life that is void of adversity in anything but the life that a Christian is called to following salvation.
This “rest” is a reference to the “…peace of God that transcends all understanding…(Phil 4:7 NIV)” when one is under all sorts of pressure.
All believers can look forward to the “rest’ that is to be experienced in Heaven, but how many are up to the challenge of acquiring the “rest” here on Earth in the midst of adversity?