Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is "Heaven is For Real" For Real?

In Todd Burpo’s new book Heaven is For Real he recounts his son Colton’s medical problems, which included an emergency surgery that almost ended his life. According to Burpo, his four year old son later told his father that the angels sang to him during his surgery. From there, the rest of the book is devoted to the father retelling the son’s story of his trip to heaven.

This book was very well written and the story was captivating. Anyone would have to be heartless to accuse this cute toddler of lying or being wrong about what he claims he witnessed. While I am not prepared to accuse him of lying, there were some questions that I have. According to Burpo on page 66, his son’s story “matched Scripture in every detail,” and in order for this story to have been true, it would indeed have to match in every detail.

One of the first things that Colton told his father is that Jesus rode on a rainbow colored horse. To match Scripture in every detail, it should be noted that Scripture never mentions Jesus having a rainbow colored horse. It does, however, mention that Jesus will ride a white horse (Revelation 19:11).

Colton also told his father that everyone, including his Papa, had wings in heaven. The problem with this, as I describe in greater detail in Asleep in Heaven’s Nursery, is that people do not become angels once they get to heaven. Humans will still be humans in heaven, just with glorified bodies, and angels are separate beings. Matthew 22:30 and Hebrews 12:22-23 both make a distinction between angles and humans (“spirits of just men made perfect”).

Colton slowly shared details with his dad over the course of three years. Among those details were things like Jesus giving Colton homework to do in heaven, which again, doesn’t match Scripture.

On page 107 Burpo said that Colton’s description of the colors of heaven reminded him of the description of heaven in Revelation 21. The problem here is that Revelation 21 is a description of the New Jerusalem, not heaven. That is not to say that heaven isn’t colorful, but again, it is not fair to say that his description matched Scripture.

Colton said that while he was there he saw Jesus “shoot down power” from heaven in the form of the Holy Spirit to give his father the power to preach. This bit of news came more than a year after Colton started telling his father about his visit to heaven; when his story first started, this visit had taken place while Colton was in surgery and his parents were in the waiting room. His father was certainly not preaching during this time, he was in the waiting room “chastising God” for his son’s illness, so that whole story seems outright false.

Three years after Colton’s surgery, their family was at home watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on DVD. After the movie was over Colton’s mother asked if there were swords in heaven, and Colton told her that there were. He said that the angels carried swords in order to keep Satan out of heaven, and Colton asked if he could have a sword, and Jesus told him no because that would be too dangerous. This makes me wonder how heaven could be dangerous, especially since it is a perfect place where the humans have glorified bodies. Could Jesus not let this child have a sword for a little fun? Could Jesus not keep him safe?

When he told his parents that Jesus wouldn’t let him have a sword, he was “dejected” and “slumped toward the floor.” He was also disappointed earlier when his angel wings weren’t as big as the other angels’ wings. My final concern with this testimony is that I can’t imagine anyone going to heaven and feeling disappointment due to lack of possessions or fun.

The whole story is also fishy because it took three years to get all the details. And those details didn’t start right after he woke up from surgery, like any natural person would expect. The first details about this visit first emerged four months after the surgery. Once he gave these first details, his parents waited a week before they asked him to explain what he was talking about. I don’t know how any parent would wait a week, or even 30 seconds, to ask him for more details.

I’m not accusing anyone of lying, but if Jesus really took this child to heaven, then as his father admitted, every detail would have to match Scripture. If there are extra biblical details then it is a new revelation, which Paul warned us about in Galatians 1:8-9.

In my opinion, Heaven is For Real is not for real.


Tommy Mann said...

In the first chapter of Job we see that Satan has direct access to God's throne. I didn't mention this in the blog, but why did the angels in heaven have swords for the expressed purpose of keeping Satan out if Satan has access to God's throne? Just one more curious point.

Jaime said...

I'm so glad you posted this. Someone I know just read this book, and a couple of days after she recommended it, I received another email recommeded it from someone else. I asked Matt what he thought. I was immediately skeptical. The Bible also says that it's appointed once a man to die, and then the judgement. How did he get into Heaven with no judgement? I have not even read the book, but I do know that everything we are intended to know about Heaven we know from the Bible...only. I get frustrated on many levels about books like this. All the "Heaven experience" we need, we can read in the Bible!

Tommy Mann said...

I agree with you Jaime. I didn't want to write this blog because I'm sure most will disagree with me since I seem heartless for doubting this cute kid. But like you I have seen blogs and heard people promote it, and I just don't buy it.

anthony said...

Thank for sharing. I am not a fan of the book. But could the Revelation 21 and the description of colors have plausibility in that the new heaven and new earth come down from heaven? Isn't the new Jerusalem being prepared now? (John 14) Thanks for your post and God bless! I will write a post on this book in my blog

Tommy Mann said...


Thank you for your comment. Yes, those colors could certainly refer to the New Jerusalem. However, if God brought this little boy to heaven and then directed him to write this book for our benefit, do you not think that God would make sure that he got his facts right?

What is more likely is that, like most people, he confuses heaven and New Jerusalem, and he just painted heaven to sound like what he has always heard, and inadvertently described New Jerusalem.

My whole point is that if this account were true, then Colton’s facts would be true as well. In both Testaments the sign of a true prophet was 100% accuracy, and if a prophet made a false statement then he was to be rejected. I think the same should apply here.

I look forward to reading your review.

Bill Randall said...

Like you Tommy I have researched so much of what the Burpos have said over the last few years.. We know that Ezekiel,Isaiah,Paul and John wrote about heaven and thats good enough for me.. If they really have their heart right they will offer the movie free to everyone that wants to see it..Same goes for the book.. I don't see where me going to see this movie will strengthen my relationship with God the Father, Jesus my Lord and The Holy Spirit.. I will just stay with the original version "Holy Bible"...God bless you Tommy