Heaven Is for Real

And We’re Going to Like It

Wow. It seems to be a banner year for controversial biblical- and Christian-themed movies. Next on BreakPoint, the story behind “Heaven Is for Real.” Stay tuned.

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Eric Metaxas

Imagine going through the worst event of your life: the near-death of your child during emergency surgery. Then imagine that fully-recovered child saying things afterwards that just don't make sense.

For instance, he says he was “lifted up” during his surgery, and saw his mother in one room telephoning friends, and his father in another room “yelling at God”--which is exactly what his parents were doing.

He also said he was so frightened that Jesus held him on His lap. That angels sang to him. And that his older sister—who had died during a miscarriage—ran up and hugged him. And he says all of this happened during a visit to Heaven.

Well, even the child's parents, Todd and Sonja Burpo, had a hard time believing what their four-year-old son, Colton, was telling them.

But then Burpo, a small-town Nebraska pastor, and his wife, a teacher, began comparing what daily_commentary_04_25_14Colton was saying with biblical passages about Heaven. Colton, who had been exposed only to the simplest concepts about God in Sunday School, was giving them descriptions of Heaven that matched up perfectly with complex passages in the book of Revelation.

As Todd Burpo put it, he began to be convinced that his son really had visited Heaven during a particular conversation, when little Colton spoke “of things that he saw in Heaven that I knew he had never read about in the Bible—[because he had not yet learned to read] and he was so biblically accurate....But when he talked about meeting his sister in Heaven and then talks about my Granddad and speaks of how I played with him (my Grandad) as a little kid—and he's not missing any details and these details are right!”

There is, Burpo concluded, “no way a four-year-old can invent things like that.”

The Burpos began speaking about Colton's experiences at funerals as a way to comfort the grieving. They wrote a book titled “Heaven is for Real,” which has sold an astonishing ten million copies. And a film based on the book, starring Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly, has just been released.

Todd Burpo says the book and the film offer the same message: that Heaven is a real and wonderful place that we’re going to enjoy living in. In interviews, he says most Christians don't think much about Heaven, while others are afraid of the unknown. They want to know what loved ones will look like, and how they’ll recognize them.

As to why God might have chosen Colton for such an amazing witness, Burpo says, “I think God still uses personal experiences to draw people to Himself.”

While the film includes characters and events that were invented for dramatic purposes, Burpo says that Colton still “points everything toward Jesus Christ.” Jesus, he says, “came and got him and talked with him. It starts and ends with Jesus.”

Newsletter_Gen_180x180_BTo learn more about the film and how the book changed the lives of the Burpo family, visit BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll link you to the interview my friend and colleague Anne Morse did with Todd Burpo himself.

We’ll also link you to Christianity Today’s review of the movie. The film is getting positive reviews, even from secular critics. But given the sensational topic (a trip to heaven and back) and the theological questions it raises, consider this: If you do decide to go and watch it, maybe take an unsaved friend and, perhaps over a cup of coffee, discuss the film's primary theme: that Heaven is a real and beautiful place.

But then be sure to tell the rest of the story: That Jesus died for our sins so that we could live with Him forever.

Further Reading and Information


Heaven Is for Real: And We’re Going to Like It

For more information about "Heaven Is for Real," the book and the movie, read Anne Morse's interview with Todd Burpo, and check out the Christianity Today review of the film.

As Eric suggested, take saved and unsaved family and friends with you to this one. It presents a great opportunity to discuss Christ's words about the reality of Heaven, and how you get there!


Behind the Scenes of ‘Heaven Is for Real’: An Interview with Todd Burpo
Anne Morse | BreakPoint.org | April 16, 2014

Heaven Is For Real: movie review
Kenneth R. Morefield | Christianity Today | April 16, 2014

Heaven Is For Real
Todd Burpo | Thomas Nelson Publishers | November 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven: But Never Dreamed of Asking
Peter Kreeft | Ignatius Press | June 1990

Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions
Randy Alcorn | Tyndale House Publishers | June 2004


Whose version of Heaven is real?

I am inclined to think that Mo might be right, although I haven't read the book or seen the movie either; I have seen the original 7 minutes plus video featuring the actual Burpos, not actors, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhT36Dizo2s. Perhaps it is because of articles about it at equip.org, such as "Heaven Is Real, but Heaven Is for Real Is Really Not", at http://www.equip.org/articles/heaven-real-heaven-real-really/, which I have read.
Mo, I wish you'd explain something to me. You've commented here several times about the book and movie. You say you haven't read the book or seen the movie. But you keep saying that neither of them is biblical or beneficial to Christians, even though in the pieces we've done about them -- all of which were written by devout Christian authors who believe that the Bible is God's Word and must be paramount for Christians -- the importance of biblical accuracy and the need for everything to point back to Jesus Christ have been emphasized.

Why is it, then, that you think we're deliberately promoting something un-Christian here? I'd really like to know.
It has left me stunned to see how much positive attention this book and now this movie have received from followers of Christ.

Generally, I wait until I have read or watched something before forming an opinion on it. But some things are so simple and straightforward that I don't think that's necessary in this case.

God's Word says we die once, and then there's judgment. God's Word also relates Paul's account of having some type of experience of the heavenly realms. It was so glorious that he was not able to even speak of it.

Why, then, instead of taking God's Word on this subject, are we taking the words of a 4-year-old child as gospel (and literally, as gospel!) in this case?