Heaven is For Real book by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
May 27th, 2011
Book Review for Heaven is For Real
by Mural Worthey (Cawson Street church, Hopewell, Virginia)
Background: New York Times’ best seller, 2010. Todd and Colton were interviewed on Fox News recently. They just briefly retold their story. Minister’s family in Nebraska: Todd & Sonja Burpo, and children: Colton, Cassie and Colby (who was born after the incident with Colton at 4 years of age). Todd is the minister of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska.
1) This riveting book is about a preacher’s family struggling with a very sick little 4 year-old named Colton. The doctors at first thought he had a stomach virus, but he kept getting worse. After days of sickness and deteriorating condition, they discovered that his appendix had ruptured.
2) In addition, Todd the father also suffered from several illnesses. His fellow preachers called him “Pastor Job” because of all that he had endured.
3) The second half of the book is about what Colton told his family happened to him during surgery. He said that he was dead for 3 minutes and journeyed to heaven. Based on all that he experienced in heaven, they believe this was not literally 3 minutes, but a much longer period of time.
4) This was not a brief, out of the body type experience, where a bright light or something indescribable was seen. He recounted details about what he saw in heaven.
5) His father wrote the book putting down the circumstances surrounding their conversations when they learned about his experiences little by little over several years after his surgery.
6) The first thing that Colton told his family was that angels sang to him while he was in surgery. When asked what songs, he replied: Jesus Loves Me and Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho. Colton often told them things that Jesus said to him.
7) Colton said that Jesus wore a white robe with a purple sash, but that he did not have wings like everyone else. Jesus moved about by just going up and down like an elevator. Remember the ascension? (Acts 1.)
8) He said that Jesus had red markers on his hands and feet. Jesus rode a rainbow horse; brilliant colors of the rainbow were in heaven.
9) Colton told them that there were many children in heaven and no old people. Everyone was either young adults or children. There were men and women in heaven. He said that there were lots of children.
10) When asked what they did in heaven, he replied that it was like school. Jesus was the teacher and he taught all the children.
11) He remembered specific people that he met in heaven. He met Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist, angels, Pop (his dad’s grandfather), and lots of children.
12) Colton claimed that he came back to his body because of prayers and that Jesus sent him back from heaven to earth.
Proof for his story
1) Most rational people would want proof before believing something so extraordinary. Colton’s father, Todd, gave several proofs that convinced him that his son went to heaven and came back.
2) He recognized Pop, his great grandfather, from an old picture when Pop was much younger and before Colton was even born. How did he know what his great grandfather looked like?
3) Colton was asked where Jesus was in relation to his Father (God). He said that he sat in a chair on his right side. When Todd asked him who sat on the left side, he replied that Gabriel did. (The Bible does not say anything about Gabriel sitting on God’s throne on the left side.)
4) Colton also told his family that he met his other sister. Sonja and Todd were shocked. They asked him, What other sister? You have only one sister, Cassie. He said, No, he met his other sister. A little girl came running up to him in heaven and recognized Colton. When asked her name, he said that she did not have a name. Other children did, but she did not have one. Todd and Sonja lost a child before Colton was born. Sonja had a miscarriage when her baby was only two months old. The nameless child in heaven was his little sister. No one had ever told Colton about this incident. Thus, the parents believe that this is proof that Colton went to heaven and back.
5) Another proof was that when Colton was in surgery and so very sick, his mother and father were praying. Todd was so distraught that he went into a closet in the hospital and yelled at God. Sonja, his mother, was in the waiting room praying and calling family and friends. Colton revealed to his father where he was and that God answered his prayer. This is the reason that he came back from heaven. Todd said that no one else could have known where he was. Colton said that he saw him from above looking down.
6) Todd was once at a youth conference where a minister challenged the young people to become missionaries and preachers. Todd felt the power of God’s call to become a minister. He went home after the conference and told his mother that he was going to be a preacher when he grew up. Only his mother and Todd knew about that conversation. Now Colton revealed that he knew about it because Jesus told him that his father obeyed his call to preach. Colton was told to be quiet once while his father was studying his message for Sunday. He said that he prayed for his father on Sundays while he was preaching. He told them that he could see power coming down from God to his father helping him with his message.
7) Colton’s eyewitness account of Jesus’ appearance corroborated by a little Lithuanian American girl who claimed she had visions of heaven and Jesus. From the age of four, Akiane began seeing visions. She painted what she saw. She was born into an atheist’s family who taught her nothing about God. When Colton saw the picture of Jesus that Akiane had painted, he was stunned because it was exactly like the Jesus he saw in heaven. Todd and Sonja said that they were looking at the face of Jesus when looking at Akiane’s painting.
Book’s theology of heaven
1) Whoever wrote the book (Todd with Lynn Vincent’s help; or an eyewitness account of heaven), it reveals someone’s theology of heaven. This is helpful in determining whether it is true or not.
2) The General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, Jo Anne Lyon, wrote this about this story: “Colton’s story could have been in the New Testament—but God has chosen to speak to us in this twenty-first century through the unblemished eyes of a child, revealing some of the mysteries of heaven. The writing is compelling and the truth astonishing, creating a hunger for more.” She thought that this little book is on equality with Scripture.
3) Todd presented as proof of their story that Colton saw Jesus’ nailed pierced hands and feet. He said that in their Bible classes for very young children, they do not get into details about the crucifixion. How did he know that nails were driven through his hands and feet? “Red markers” indicates falsely that the scars of Jesus’ earthly body would have been in heaven. Will Paul have his scars on his back when he was beaten? This is a misunderstanding of the resurrected body. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, they were frightened. He said to them, “Behold my hands and my feet; it is I myself. Handle me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as ye see that I have.” (Luke 24:39.) A flesh and bone body does not inherit heaven, according to Paul. (1 Cor. 15:50.)
4) Jesus was literally seated on the right hand of God. Gabriel was on God’s left side. This is a misunderstanding of what “right hand” means. It does not mean right versus the left side. It means one with authority to speak or act for another.
5) This book reveals a theology of the age people will be in heaven. It claimed that no old people will be there; just middle-age and young people. It is interesting that Muslims say everyone will be about 32 years old; the same age as Jesus. But the Bible does not say. If we think in terms of this life and our families, the theology is wrong. What if someone marries more than once? No marriages in heaven. (Matt. 22:29-32.) Will you be in your parents’ family or in yours? Neither. The apostle John wrote that it has not yet appeared what we shall be like in heaven. (1 John 3:2.)
6) Colton said that angels needed swords, real ones, in heaven. He was playing with swords at home when his mother casually said that there will not be any swords in heaven. He argued with her. He said that he saw them; they were needed because the Devil has not yet been defeated. The angels needed them to fight against demons and the Devil.
7) He told his dad that he saw the future as well. He saw the “battle of Armageddon” and that his dad fought in it. This is another false theology in his story. Revelation is not about future events thousands of years removed from John and Christians in the first century. They were the ones suffering from persecution. The beast is identified in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. The battle of Armageddon is not future; it has already been fought. It is a spiritual battle, not a physical one. Satan has been defeated.
8) This story is filled with subjective ideas; not subject to verification. I encourage believers to stay with objective matters. Paul was allowed to see things in the third heaven, but he was not permitted to tell them. (2 Cor. 12.) What he saw was not a necessary part of the Gospel. It has not yet appeared what we shall be, said John the apostle. (1 John 3:2.) We have natural bodies now, but then we will have spiritual bodies after the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15:44.)