Heaven is for Real is a bio of a “near death” experience (NDE) but without all the “weird” and “sketchy” images that usually accompany such stories.
My review takes a positive approach. I believe Colton’s experience was genuine and his report is as accurate as any retelling of an event can be. And since heaven is not only real but very close we shouldn’t be surprised when it bleeds through occasionally.
The story is different in that it doesn’t focus on “long tunnels with lights at the end” or the sensation of watching medical personnel feverishly operate from a hovering out-of-body perspective. It is a matter of fact story shared from the perspective of an almost four-year-old child who had no preconceived ideas beforehand and explains everything casually. To him it wasn’t strange.
Colton Burpo, just before his fourth birthday, has a ruptured appendix that is misdiagnosed for several days. Because the event takes place in rural Nebraska, medical personnel and facilities are few and far between. The experience involved miles of travel between hospitals and desperate dependence on professionals who were not hopeful but gave it their best shot. His death was so expected his recovery was dumbfounding.
But recovery, though miraculous, is not the story. God’s answering many prayers in a hopeless situation is also not the story. Heaven is.
Although Colton was never pronounced dead, for several years following this experience he describes with innocence and in a childlike manner his visit to heaven for just a few minutes while on the operating table. And what does he find?
- Jesus was the first to greet him with his scars apparent.
- Angels singing and protecting the saints.
- A great grandfather he had never known.
- An older sister who died before birth.
- Images of heaven just like those described in the Bible. These descriptions are well beyond the intellectual reach of a four-year-old. Even adults struggle to understand them. However, he describes these details without hesitation in the language of a child.
- The effects of old age missing: no gray hair, wrinkled skin or glasses.
- Theological truths visually and functionally apparent: the Trinity relating, the Holy Spirit empowering, the angels protecting, Jesus advocating at the right hand of the Father and demonstrating His great love for children and more.
And “mysteriously,” while witnessing heaven first hand, he reveals knowledge of his parents’ whereabouts, knowledge that cannot be easily explained. His dad was in a small room by himself praying and his mother was in another place praying and talking on the phone. Not even the doctors knew this.
His experience reinforces the Bible’s basic teaching on heaven. He describes what believers have expected for millenniums. And we are reassured that…
- Heaven is a separate but eternal realm that exists adjacent to and parallel with our temporal human experience.
- It is reachable only by death or miraculous transport.
- It is personal.
- And, of course, it is real.
Colton tells his story one small piece at a time as if remembering on the fly, a little here-a little there, in those moments when circumstances inevitably spur the memory of a small child. And why not? In his mind, the mind of a non-jaded, non-cynical, not quite four-year-old child, it was all quite normal. There was nothing to fear and no reason to be surprised. For him this was just another new experience in a life just starting.
Once the operation was over the surprise was his recovery and reunion with his parents, not to mention his pain during recovery – overwhelming realities at that moment. Heaven became the distant memory. The layers of that memory were accessed and shared depending on how they matched life situations as they developed.
- Reminiscing while driving near the hospital.
- A funeral.
- A friend facing death.
- Remembering and missing an older departed sister.
- Recollecting details of a patriarch he never knew.
Yes, Colton’s father, Todd, wrote the book – with Lynn Vincent – but Colton is the one who tells the story. He even named the book, “Heaven Is For Real.”
Being a diligent pastor, Todd checked every detail shared by Colton to be sure it fell in line with Scripture. He shares several relevant Bible passages in the book and includes references in the notes.
Check this post to see what Jesus and others said about heaven in the Bible.
Use these Study Questions for your small group.
A DVD-based Conversation Guide is also now available for families or small groups. It includes five sessions lasting 10 to 18 minutes each featuring Colton and his parents, Todd and Sonja, answering FAQ’s about heaven and their experiences.
You can buy Heaven Is For Real inexpensively here.
The book is endorsed by Don Piper, author of 90 Minutes in Heaven.
Heaven is for Real was provided free of charge by BookSneeze in return for which I have written the preceding book review. No additional remuneration was given and no controls were imposed on my opinions. All the ideas expressed here are entirely my own.