Cryopreservation And The Doctrine Of The Ressurection

Jul 24th, 2021 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

One of the surprising consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic with its heightened awareness of human mortality has been an interest in cryopreservation.  Two major international corporations—KryoRus, which has operated in Moscow since 2006, and an American corporation, Alcor Life Extension Foundation centered in Scottsdale, Arizona—have received record numbers of inquiries in 2021.  In addition, the American Society of Cryonics has been offering support services since 1969 to people interested in preserving their bodies or their brains.

What is cryopreservation and why is it so appealing to those who can afford such an expensive procedure?  Cryonics (from Greek: ????? kryos meaning ‘cold’) is the low-temperature freezing (usually at ?196 °C or ?320.8 °F or 77.1 K) and storage of a human corpse or severed head, with the speculative hope of being revived when future technology makes this possible. [Currently, there is no way of reviving such a preserved human body.] Cryonics is regarded with skepticism within the scientific community. It is generally viewed as a pseudoscience, and its practice has been characterized as “quackery.”  Indeed, Cryobiologist Kenneth B. Storey said in 2004 that cryonics is impossible and will never be possible, as cryonics proponents are proposing to “over-turn the laws of physics, chemistry, and molecular science.”  Neurobiologist Michael Hendricks has said that “Reanimation or simulation is an abjectly false hope that is beyond the promise of technology and is certainly impossible with the frozen, dead tissue offered by the ‘cryonics’ industry.”  William T. Jarvis has written that “Cryonics might be a suitable subject for scientific research, but marketing an unproven method to the public is quackery.”

Cryonics procedures can begin only after clinical death, and only when such “patients” are legally dead. Cryonics procedures normally must begin within minutes of death, and use cryoprotectants to prevent ice formation during cryopreservation. The first corpse to be frozen was that of Dr. James Bedford in 1967. As of 2014, about 250 dead bodies had been cryopreserved in the United States, and 1,500 people had made arrangements for cryopreservation of their corpses.

How widespread is cryopreservation?  As mentioned above, the Russian firm KryoRus, the American firm Alcor and the American Society of Cryonics lead the world in cryopreservation.  But in Australia, Southern Cryonics plans to open its facility later in 2021 or into 2022, which will be capable of storing 40 bodies.  China has also entered into the fray through the Yinfeng Life Science Research Institute, which is the only cryonics group in the world that is supported by government and embraced by mainstream scientific researchers.   China performed its first cryopreservation in 2017 and the Yinfeng facility currently has only a dozen clients.  But, many cryonic specialists see China eventually dominating the whole field of cryonics.

More than 50 years after the first cryopreservation, there are now about 500 people stored in vats around the world, the great majority of them in the United States.  The Cryonics Institute holds 206 bodies, while Alcor has 182 bodies or neuros (i.e., the heads) of people aged 2 to 101.  KyroRus has 80.  There are a handful of others scattered in small operations worldwide.  Corpses subjected to the cryonics process include those of baseball players Ted Williams and son John Henry Williams (in 2002 and 2004, respectively), engineer and doctor L. Stephen Coles (in 2014), economist and entrepreneur Phil Salin, and software engineer Hal Finney (in 2014).  People known to have arranged for cryonics upon death include PayPal founders Luke Nosek and Peter Thiel, and Oxford transhumanists Nick Bostrom and Anders SandbergLarry King previously arranged for cryonics, but according to Inside Edition, later changed his mind.

How much does the cryopreservation procedure cost?  The Yingfeng Institute and Alcor charge $200,000 to handle the whole body and $80,000 to handle the head (the “neuro”).  [Alcor places $115,000 of its “whole body” fee in a trust to guarantee the future care of its patients.  That trust is managed by Morgan Stanley, now worth more than $15 million.]  The Cryonics Institute follows a different business model, charging basic fees as low as $28,000 up to $60,000.  According to Peter Wilson of the New York Times, Alcor has the largest number of people who have committed to paying its fees: 1,385, from 34 countries.  The Chinese have about 60 customers who have committed, while KyroRus says it has recruited 400 customers from 20 countries.  Finally, Wilson reports that “To smooth the jolt of trying to resume life in the future, most cryonics firms offer to store keepsakes, ‘memory books,’ and digital discs to help a revived patient rebuild memories or simply cope with nostalgia . . . Alcor is working on options for putting money into a personal trust to finance a future life.”

As Christians, committed to the authority of God’s Word, how should we think about the cryopreservation phenomenon?  How should we evaluate it?  First of all, cryopreservation illustrates the desire of human beings to achieve some form of immortality.  It also manifests the desire of humanity to overcome the curse of death—to somehow triumph over its finality.  But the Bible teaches that death is the penalty for sin; it is our enemy and it is ugly.  Thus, God, who is rich in mercy and grace, sent His Son Jesus to pay that penalty through His death, burial and resurrection.  Jesus triumphed over death and offers us eternal life in a resurrected, glorified body.  Let me review several bedrock doctrinal truths of genuine, biblical Christianity:

  1. The imago Dei (the image of God doctrine taught in Genesis s 1:26ff), which defines the identity, value and importance of the human race, includes both the material and immaterial dimensions of humanity—the body and the soul.  God not only redeems our soul through the substitutionary death of His Son; He also redeems our bodies.  Indeed, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” [ESV].  Furthermore, the body is so important to God that He promises to resurrect it.  What occurs at death?
  • Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you shall be with me in paradise?” [Luke 23:43]
  • In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul declares that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

When we die, our soul goes to be with Jesus in heaven.  Our bodies go into the grave.  [Death is a separation of the body and soul.] The resurrection is the re-joining of the human soul with the reconstituted, resurrected, glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).  This all occurs at the event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

  1. What will our resurrected, glorified bodies be like?


  • To be “imperishable” means that our bodies will not wear out, will not grow old and there will be no sickness or disease that could ravage our bodies.
  • In Matthew 13:43, Jesus declares that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”  [Also see Daniel 12:3 for similar language.]  Because our bodies are raised “in glory,” our new bodies will have a beauty and attractiveness that is associated with the glory of God Himself.  Since we will continue to be God’s dominion stewards in the eternal New Heavens and New Earth, it makes sense that we will reflect the glory of our Sovereign.
  • Our new bodies are “raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43).  Our bodies will have the fullness and strength God originally intended His image-bearers to have.
  • Our new bodies will be “spiritual” (pneumatikos), which in the NT means consistent with the character and activity of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 1:11; 7:14; 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 5:19 on the meaning of “spiritual”).
  • In terms of our uniqueness in abilities, looks, giftedness, etc., the NT affirms a continuity between our present bodies and our new, resurrected bodies (see Romans 8:1; Philippians 3:21 and 1 Corinthians 15:37-38).

So, Jesus Christ, through His completed, finished work, guarantees what cryopreservation cannot—an eternal, glorified, resurrected body which will live forever in a restored new heaven and new earth.  The empty promises of cryopreservation are overcome by the certainty of the resurrection.  In Christ, there is hope; in cryopreservation there is none!

See Wikipedia article on “Cryonics”; and Peter Wilson, “After Death, the Big Chill” in the New York Times (27 June 2021).

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One Comment to “Cryopreservation And The Doctrine Of The Ressurection”

  1. Arlie Rauch says:

    Excellent article! In addition to the marvelous fact that God is able to make this happen, His way always seems strikingly simpler and more efficient.