The book Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo gives a young boy’s account of dying, going to heaven, and being brought back to life on earth. He went up out of his body; saw his parents in different rooms–praying, etc.; spoke with angels; and, sat in Jesus’ lap. He was gone for three minutes, then Jesus brought him back, due to answered prayer. When I googled “Heaven is for real,” I got a half-million hits on articles like, “Boy Whose ‘Heaven Is For Real’ Story Captivated the World Speaks …”
It’s a well-meaning story of trying to convince people that heaven is for real, and maybe it even happened. Regardless, the wise reader will treat such claims with skepticism.
The book makes claims such as: Jesus had a cousin; Jesus had a rainbow horse; Jesus had red markers, on his hands and feet (supposedly for nail scars); Jesus’ eyes are pretty; Jesus was wearing purple (the color of kings); Jesus was wearing a crown, with a diamond, and pink in the middle; the boy had homework, and Jesus was his teacher;everyone wore white from shoulders to feet; the boy saw God’s really big throne, and Jesus’ at His right hand; there was no darkness in heaven–God and Jesus light up; Jesus really loves the children; the boy prayed for a rainbow, and got one; the first person you see is Jesus; Jesus shoots down power for daddy when he’s talking; the boy saw Satan, and only grimaced when asked about him; there’s going to be a war against Satan, monsters, dragons, and bad people; and, Jesus said he had told his dad to be a pastor. It is quite possible that each of these claims might have come through a Bible story (his dad was a pastor), a picture, or a dream.
He also made a couple of claims that I believe are incorrect, or misleading, at best: He claimed that everybody had wings, and a halo, except for Jesus. Although this could also have come from a story, a picture, or a dream, the thing to note is that it is not biblical, and, frankly, it is bad doctrine. Since the writing of the New Testament, stories and traditions have come down through the generations that people become angels when they die and go to heaven. However, angels and people are two completely different categories of God’s creation. Angels stay angels, and people stay people–forever. Wings may be for angels, and birds, but not for people. For further reading on this topic, please see “Do We Become Angels When We Die?”
The boy also identified a picture (a painting) of Christ, with long hair. Again, this comes from false doctrine. 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 says “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” How could a sinless man have had long hair, and thus been a disgrace?
The boy also said that Gabriel was at God’s left hand and that the Holy Spirit was blue. It’s easy to make these very subjective claims, but unfortunately, there is no way to prove them. All we know for sure is that the Bible doesn’t teach such claims.
However, there were two claims in the book that are more difficult to discount:
1) The boy met his great-grandfather, who had big wings, and later he was supposedly able to identify his picture. Although this story may be a little easier to believe (except for the wings, the source of it could once again been from family pictures and / or stories, or family resemblance.
2) The boy met his sister who had died in a miscarriage. This is the most intriguing claim that I found in this book. However, this again is quite subjective and not provably true. It could have been a dream.
Yes, we do know that heaven is for real. However, this is not due to this boy’s story. It’s true because the Bible says so.