“Is there life after death? Just ask 4-year-old Colton, who emerged from life-threatening surgery with astounding details about heaven! Colton’s account includes floating away, looking down on his dad praying in the hospital, seeing God’s throne, and meeting relatives — including his sister who died in a miscarriage (and whom his parents had never mentioned). Riveting!”
This is the product description for the Thomas Nelson publication that became a New York Times #1 best seller. Since its release in 2010, Heaven Is For Real has captivated the hearts and minds of literally thousands of people. And now, there’s the 2014 release of the movie by Sony/TriStar Pictures.
According to the publisher, the book tells the true life story of when Colton Burpo survived an emergency appendectomy. Apparently his appendix had ruptured in his body and was poisoning his system. Colton’s family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival, but they weren’t expecting the story that would emerge in the months to come. For Colton’s story — as beautiful as it was extraordinary — would detail his trip to heaven and back.
You see, the soon to be four year old Colton, began telling his parents that he left his body during surgery — and gave proof by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital during his operation. He also talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life. Colton shared events that even happened before he was born. He continued to astound his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that appeared to match the Holy Bible exactly, though he couldn’t even read yet.
With persuasive simplicity and the purity of a child, Colton talked of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus Christ, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much God loves humanity. Colton’s story is retold, in the book, by his father (Rev. Todd Burpo) but the wording is uniquely simple to match those of a very young child. Heaven Is for Real, both the book and the movie, offers a glimpse of the world that awaits believers. A world where Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”
Whether you read the book or see the film, Heaven Is for Real is said to forever change the way you think of eternity, as the story offers humanity the chance to see, and believe, like a child. I’ve not yet read the book, but I have seen the movie, and I was moved in an entirely different way.
Maybe it’s because I’m already a believer that I was not astounded by Colton’s details of heaven. As the publisher of the book indicated, nothing was disclosed (at least in the film) that could not be supported in Scripture. I realize that there are many theologians, both prominent and otherwise, who have debated the truthfulness of this father’s retelling of his son’s experience. Again, I have not yet read the book so I will not enter into that debate. No; what astounded me most about this story was that it consisted of so many “believers” (pastors and lay-persons, alike) who had to “see,” and “hear” Colton’s evidence for heaven to know that it is real.
What is the point of having faith in Jesus Christ — of calling ourselves Christian (someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ) — if we are not going to believe the very words of Christ regarding heaven or any other topic? Note these Scriptures, which are the very words of God’s begotten Son:
– Matthew 7:13-14 — “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
– John 14:2-3 — “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Colossian church: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
And don’t forget the words of the beloved Apostle John: “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:13-17)
John the beloved, also known as “The Revelator,” went on to pen these words about heaven: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.’ [Jesus then said] ‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’” (Revelation 22:3-7)
If our hope is in Jesus Christ, then what is the result of our hope? Why must Jesus even be our hope? God’s begotten Son must be our hope, because humanity is depraved and lost in self worship. This self-worshiping nature has doomed us to an eternal separation from our holy Creator. People are too selfish to even begin to know how to purify themselves and over come their evil essence, known as sin. It required the perfection of a true worshiper to over come the imperfections of humanity’s self-worshiping nature. That pure and perfect worshiper of God is His very own begotten Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus had to willingly lower Himself to the essence of a self-worshiping human, while all the while not participating in self worship. Christ had to live as one of us, and experience all of our hurts, temptations, and pains, and remain a true worshiper of God to become a pure and perfect blood sacrifice capable of cleaning up all of humanity’s sins. Jesus did this, and the result was our restoration to God the Father, by faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-28; Philippians 2:5-11).
But it didn’t stop there, Jesus also conquered death by rising from the grave. So not only can mankind be forgiven every selfish wrong, but humanity can embrace the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Again, as Jesus said, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2b) Anyone claiming to be a Christian, especially those in the pulpits and serving as lay-persons, should be full aware of the reality of heaven, and even hell for that matter. Again let’s read the words of the Apostle Paul, this time to the Corinthian church:
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For He ‘has put everything under his feet.’” (1 Corinthians 15:1-27)
Did you get that? If we truly believe that Christ is our hope beyond the grave, but do not truly believe in heaven, then we are to be pitied more so than any other religious group. Why? Because, if heaven isn’t real, then neither is Christ’s resurrection. And if the resurrection of the dead isn’t real, then we are still condemned as self-worshipers. Humanity is still lost and depraved.
Oh, but Christ did physically live! Jesus did physically die, and return from the grave! All praise be to our benevolent Creator, that our faith in Christ does give us hope! For our loving and merciful God made Jesus Christ to be our way to forgiveness and our way to eternal life. As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Don’t get caught up in the need for evidence, when it comes to our faith. The evidence that does exist — the evidence that does substantiate our Christian claims regarding Christ, or heaven, or anything else disclosed in the holy Scriptures — should not be the cause of our faith, but simply an edification of our belief. The “punctuation” at the end of our “sentence,” and not the “subject” of the “sentence,” itself. As the author of the book of Hebrews stated, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is believing without seeing, and not believing because you have seen.
In part two of this special commentary on true faith, we will conclude with an understanding of what real faith should look like in the everyday life of a person claiming to be a Christian — one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, God’s begotten Son.
Heaven Is For Real by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.
“Heaven Is For Real” © 2010 by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent
All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book’s press release appears curtesy of Thomas Nelson, Inc. and Christianbook.Com.
Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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Movie trailer made available by Jason Ministries, and Sony/TriStar Pictures; Copyright © 2014
If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason Ministries‘ Twitter account or Facebook page.