Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
Reviewed date: 2011 Nov 28
163 pages
cover art

Four-year-old Colton Burpo nearly died of a ruptured appendix in 2003. While in surgery, he visited heaven and spent time with Jesus, John the Baptist, and his great-grandfather. He also met God, the Holy Spirit, and lots of children. He also met his sister who died in an early miscarriage. These revelations came out piece by piece over several years, in casual conversations with his parents--who were intentionally careful to never offer him information or influence his thinking. Colton showed knowledge of events that happened long before he was born, events that happened while he was in surgery, and he described heaven in terms that jibed with the scriptural accounts. Basically, everything checks out.

So where does that leave us? Well, if we believe this story, we know that heaven is real. God exists. The Bible is true. Jesus died for your sins.

I believe all that already. What Heaven is for Real offers to someone like me is wonderful assurances of things we all wonder about and secretly hope for: will we see our relatives in heaven? (Yes.) Will we recognize them? (Yes.) What about unborn babies? (Yes, they're in heaven waiting to meet us.) What about animals? (Of course!) About the only thing the book doesn't offer is hope for those who don't know Jesus. Colton is very clear about that: you have to know Jesus or you can't go to heaven.

The book pretty much tells a Christian everything he wants to hear--and that makes me a wee bit skeptical. It's almost like it's too good to be true. But on the other hand, a God who loves us and is willing to sacrifice his own son for us, well, that's too good to be true--but it happened!

A few things struck me as odd.

  • Colton remembers that Jesus had markers--wounds--on his palms, but in a crucifixion the spikes would have been driven through the wrists.
  • Colton said that people in heaven have wings, except for Jesus, who just goes up and down like an elevator. That seems odd, and Todd's attempt to match this to Scriptures about Jesus ascending and descending feels contrived.
  • Colton's father says that Colton would not have known various details from Scripture or from popular images of heaven, such as the location of the stigmata, the idea that people in heaven have wings, or halos. Surely it would be unlikely for a four-year-old in a Christian home to have never encountered such imagery.
  • Colton describes a future battle of Armageddon, and states that the men (including Colton's father) will fight in that battle, armed with swords and bows. Women and children stand back and watch.

I don't know though. Remember, even if Colton did get to experience heaven, we're dealing with a child's memory and a child's proclivity to exaggerate and embellish. I noticed that the earlier revelations seemed to be more grounded in actual events and real people, whereas the later ones--like the battle of Armageddon--seem much more fanciful and more connected (possibly) to Colton's boyish love of swords and superheroes.

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