In the past, people were buried alive on purpose as a torture or punishment, or on accident because they were mistakenly thought to be dead. There are cases of people whose bodies were exhumed only to discover that they had been buried alive and had clearly attempted to escape. Being buried alive is one of the most common fears because it is mentally and physically a bad way to leave this world. In an airtight casket, death usually comes by asphyxiation. Otherwise it takes longer and can be caused by dehydration or by hypothermia if it is cold outside.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is His death, burial, and resurrection (1Cor 15:1-4). The word gospel means “good news”. The death and burial of Jesus was not good news for Him, but it was for us because He did it for our sins, and because He rose from the dead. Technically speaking, no one dies because only the fleshly body dies. The soul does not die in the sense that it ceases to exist or have awareness. Jesus clearly taught this (Mk 9:43-49, Lk 16:19-31, Jn 5:24-29). The soul either goes to eternal life or eternal death which could be defined as being separated from the blessing of the presence of God in torments (2Thes 1:7-9, Rev 20:11-15). Our response to the news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is to die to sin in repentance, be buried with Christ in water baptism, and to receive the resurrection power of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38-29, Rom 6:1-4, Col 2:8-12). The first message of the early church was preached by Peter on the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). It was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. People responded by asking what they should do (vs 37). “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (vs 38).” This pattern continued through the book of Acts (Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 19:1-7).
There are two vital questions to be asked about water baptism. The first is, “Why should we be baptized?” There is only one reason given in the Bible to be baptized, and that is to have our sins remitted (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16). Men have made up other reasons, but none of them are in the Bible. We do not get baptized for Adam’s sin. We do not get baptized to join a church. We repent of our own sins and then get baptized for the remission (forgiveness, pardon, release) of those sins. The other question is, “How do we get baptized?” Again, there is only one scriptural answer – by immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ. The word baptize means to immerse, plunge, or dip in water. Since we are buried with Christ in baptism, the only proper way is immersion. That is how John baptized (Mt 3:6 & 16). That is how the early church baptized (Acts 8:36-39). The only baptismal formula used by the early church was “in the name of Jesus Christ” (or a similar variant as recited in the accounts – Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:44-48, Acts 19:1-7, Acts 22:16). People say, “What about Matthew 28:19? Didn’t Jesus say to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?” There are several things to consider. Jesus said, “in the name (singular)”. The words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are not actual names. The name of Jesus is the New Testament saving name of God (Mt 1:21, Acts 4:12). The name of the Father is Jesus (Jn 5:43), the name of the Son is Jesus (Mt 1:21), and the name of the Holy Ghost is Jesus (Jn 14:26). Our sins are remitted through the name of Jesus (Acts 10:43), and water baptism is for the remission of sins. Nobody was baptized in Matthew 28. It was Jesus giving the apostles some final instructions before He ascended to heaven. You and I were not there. No religious leader that came after the first century was there. The only people that were there were Jesus and the apostles. So, who would it be best to ask what Jesus meant, and how to carry out His command? That would be the people who were there, who actually carried out the command, and wrote the book of Matthew. That was the apostles. How did they carry out the command? They baptized people in the name of Jesus Christ. Why would the church pray, teach, heal the sick, and do everything else in the name of Jesus (Col 3:17), and then use a different formula than the apostles did to baptize. Demons do not flee at the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Since we are buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:1-4, Col 2:8-12), shouldn’t we be baptized in His name?
Since we are buried with Christ in baptism, we must die first. We do not literally die, but we die to our old lifestyle of sin in repentance (Rom 6:6, Eph 4:21-25, Col 3:1-14), so we can embrace a new life in Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost. We are either dead in sin (Eph 2:1 & 5, Col 2:13), or dead to sin (Rom 6:2). Water baptism does us no good unless we have repented. There is power in the blood and name of Jesus Christ, but they are not applied to us merely through some water. Too many people get baptized but are not really serious about repentance. It is faith and repentance that give us access to the effectiveness of baptism (Col 2:12, 1Pet 3:21). That is why babies should not be baptized. We must be old enough to have enough understanding of what we are doing to have an informed faith, and we must be old enough to understand what sin is and be able to repent. Some people get buried, but they are not dead yet. Perhaps the “doctor” did not know the “patient” was not really dead. We should teach and examine people to determine they are ready, but the bottom line is that it is the responsibility of the person being baptized to be dead. We do not “kill” people. It only happens in the will of the person.
When someone is buried alive (baptized but not really repented), they will act accordingly. Shortly after their burial, they begin to attempt to escape their burial. We wonder why some people do not last long after they are baptized. This is one of the main reasons. People still have a will and a human nature after they are baptized, and there will always be opportunities and excuses to fail, but sometimes it is that they never were dead before they got buried. It would be better to not get baptized when not ready than to be baptized without dying first (Heb 6:4-9, 2Pet 2:20-22). This is not meant to discourage the sincere from being baptized, but to diagnose a problem which causes people to fail, to prevent it by properly preparing people for baptism as best we can, and to help people understand that baptism is more than just an outward religious act. It is applying the death and burial of Jesus Christ to ourselves so we can begin a new life with Him which we must purpose to keep going forward in. Some people do not rise in newness of life because they were never really dead in the first place (1Jn 2:19). God has something better for us.