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Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review: "Heaven is For Real"

TITLE: Heaven is for real
AUTHOR: Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2010, (166 pages).

I confess. I am somewhat skeptical about stories of people going to heaven and back. While not totally dismissing it, I remain agnostic about the stories told, in particular the story of Colton Burpo, a 4-year-old boy’s 3-minute trip to heaven and back. Unlike Don Piper's 90-minute trip to heaven and back in his bestseller, where Piper personally writes his book, Heaven is For Real is written by the boy's dad.

What is the Book about?

Written by Todd Burpo, the father of the boy who said has seen heaven and Jesus, it is very much a personal and family testimony of the spiritual adventures of the Burpo family. Todd is a pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church, a small church in Imperial, Nebraska. A volunteer firefighter, chaplain, as well as a member of the high school board, coupled with a full-time job as a pastor, Todd certainly has his hands full as far as work and activities are concerned. Plus the need to raise two young children, Cassie and Colton, at that time, the stress is huge.

On March 2003, a bout of Appendicitis happening to 4-year old Colton launches the family into a harrowing journey to save their son’s life. While the parents busy themselves with the logistics of treatment in and out of hospital, Colton goes in and out of heaven. For the next seven years, the Burpo family learns of multiple inexplicable instances of Colton’s description of heaven. Instances like:
  • “Jesus had the angels sing to me…” (xix)
  • Colton meeting John the Baptist (64)
  • Seeing Jesus’ bodily wounds (69)
  • Everyone looking like angels in heaven (73)
  • References to heaven as described in the gospels, the Book of Hebrews, Revelation
  • Meeting his grandpa, Pop, and his first unnamed sister who was unborn.

My Comments

I read this book with an open mind. There are two ways to read this book. The first is one of an alternative interpretation.
  • Maybe the pastoral and church environment around Colton influenced his visions of heaven?
  • Perhaps, the parents have extrapolated the young boy’s short statements to link with their own knowledge of the Bible?
  • Maybe, the Burpos have been good Sunday School teachers themselves, sharing Bible images with their children at a very young age.
The second way to read it is the 'as-is' version. I suppose this is the way that has spurred the book to a bestseller status. Reading this way gives the reader some reasons to be encouraged. I must say that the testimony will most definitely touch the hearts of the parents, their community first. It will take a while before it can be real in the mind of the distant reader. I believe the author meant every word that he said. My uncertainty lies in the interpretation of each specific vision. Again, I am not saying that Colton is lying. I am simply saying that there can be alternative interpretations.

That said, I am still amazed by such a testimony. It is a visible witness of the reality of heaven. Having said that, there is something else more important than living witnesses of the divine celestial kingdom. It is faith. Don’t get me wrong. I am not downplaying the testimony of the Burpos. I am simply affirming that faith in Jesus must remain the first brick in our stairway of faith. All other steps are built upon this cornerstone. I believe Colton Burpo’s testimony are the other bricks. I am thankful that the Burpos have shared about this story, and that it has meant so much to their faith, the community they serve, and the many readers who have been touched. When you read this book, be open. Be encouraged. Be assured that Jesus loves all the little children, including us.

Ratings: 3.5 stars of 5.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".



  1. Heaven is For Real, is the (supposed) account of Colton Burpo - son of Todd Burpo, a pastor in Imperial Nebraska. When I use the word "supposed" in parentheses above, I do not wish to imply that there is any kind of fraud being perpetrated in this story. I use it only because a lot of what is reported in the book (beyond the verifiable historical facts), is all dependent upon what may or may not be the genuine experience, or dreams, or hallucinations or combinations of these - of 4 year old Colton Burpo. I do not use it either to impugn the sincerity of the Burpo family in any way. I use it because "experiences" are tricky things. And how we interpret our experiences may or may not be accurate. And herein rests a key problem with this little -quick reading and fun book.

  2. Hi espana, your comments are valid. I like the part about experiences being tricky when it comes to interpretation. That is why prefer to keep my options open rather than an outright dismissal of it.