Heaven is for Real: Truth or Hoax?

In the 2010 best-selling Christian book, Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo and his son tell the story of an amazing heavenly experience. The Burpo family had spent two difficult weeks at The Great Plains Regional Medical Center in North Platte, Nebraska where a doctor eventually performed emergency appendectomy surgery on their three-year old son, Colton.

Four months later, they were traveling through North Platte when Todd reminded his son that they were near the hospital where he had been treated. Colton made a comment about that being the place where the angels sang to him. So began a long series of revelations that stretched over a period of several years.

Colton’s Account of Heaven

According to Colton, the first person to meet him in heaven was Jesus. The next was an older sister who had arrived earlier due to a miscarriage. He was never told about his mother’s miscarriage, but shocked her with a description of his deceased sister after his return from heaven.

He also met his great grandfather. When showed a picture of the elderly gentleman, Colton replied that no old people were in heaven. However, he recognized his grandfather when he was shown a picture of him as a younger man. According to Colton, everyone in heaven is young.

Colton placed an emphasis on human physical characteristics. For example, he said Jesus had “red markers” referring to the wounds from his crucifixion. He also claimed that everyone in heaven carried a sword. The reason he gave for this was because the swords were assurance against the possibility of Satan reentering heaven. Along with swords, everyone had wings in heaven.

Near Death Experiences

Near the end of the book Burpo’s account of heaven is compared with that of Akiane Kramarik, who claims to have visions of heaven and is gifted with a talent for painting what she sees. Todd showed Colton several pictures of Jesus and asked if that’s what He looked like. Colton rejected every picture until he saw Akiane’s portrait, which he affirmed did look like Jesus.

Is this sort of story a new phenomenon? Hardly. Near Death (NDE) and Out-of-Body (OBE) Experiences are very common. Paul tells of a similar event in the years immediately following the time of Christ:

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 – “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man, whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows, was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”

While skeptics have expressed concerns about the book and his account, Colton Burpo continues to stand by his story. It does appear that Colton, Akiane and others had some sort of vision or out-of-body experience. Too many people claim to have had near-death experiences to reject them all.

Whether or not they actually visit another realm is up for debate, but they do seem to be in a state where the laws of nature are temporarily suspended on their behalf.

Starting in 2001 as a webmaster and contributor for Ministrymaker Magazine, Kim Linton's articles and technology guides have been published on a variety of websites including Woman's Day and Intel, and featured on several news sites including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.