Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is Heaven Is For Real For Real?

So many of you have asked what I thought about the book Heaven Is For Real that I figured I’d better just put it out there.

Once I figure out what I really think of the book, that is.

A little background first. While we were on sabbatical a friend gave me this book to read. I had never heard of it other than maybe in passing on the news. I had never read it. I really didn’t know much about it at all.

So if you’re like me and don't know much about the book, I’ll give you a quick two-sentence synopsis. Colton Burpo, not quite four years old, has an emergency appendectomy and is very near death. Several weeks later he begins to tell bits and pieces of what happened to him while he was on the operating table, and it seems to his pastor-dad that he has been given a glimpse into heaven.

The rest is the book Heaven Is For Real.

I honestly don’t know what I think, other than knowing that the book has certainly stayed with me.

I decided, for the sake of research, to read what some others have said about the book and found reactions that range anywhere from “Cool! He went to Heaven!” to “Hmmm, maybe.” to “No way. No how. There is nothing like this in the Bible anywhere.”

A little grace-less, that last post, in my opinion.

Here are some things I know:

- Nobody in the Bible had an experience like this and came back to tell about it. Yes, Lazarus was dead, but once he came back to life there is no biblical evidence that he spoke about his experience in heaven.

- God has told us everything we need to know about heaven in the Bible. He doesn’t need a little kid to do His work for him.

Here are some things I wish:

- I wish God had told us a little more about heaven in His word.
- I wish I understood heaven better.
- I wish I longed for heaven more—I think it would change the way I look at the world around me.

Here are some things I felt after I read the book:

- More secure in the love God has for me. There’s a part in the book where the parents ask Colton what God looks like. He thinks about it for a long while and then he says that God is big. But then, rather than focusing on what God looks like, he says (and I paraphrase), “He loves us so much. He really, reeeeeaaaaally loves us. You can’t believe how much God loves us!”

As someone who constantly struggles with wondering why God would love me—little old unworthy me—this section of the book made me stop and think for a while. And cry just a little bit. Because when I think about the marks on Jesus’ hands and feet (another part of the book), I have to ask myself, who am I to question God’s love for me? He sent His SON to die for me. Of course He loves me!

(He loves you that much too, by the way.)

- Really excited to get to heaven someday. There are people I can’t wait to see there. My brother, especially. And my dear Grandpa Earl. I thought of them constantly as I read this book. Do I think they are eternally sitting by a pond fishing together? I have no idea. But do I know without a doubt they are there, waiting to greet their loved ones. Yes, I do. And what a glorious reunion that will be.

But here’s where the book and I part ways. My biblical understanding of heaven is that worship will be a huge part of what we’re doing in heaven. It’s not ultimately about seeing our loved ones again. It’s all about Jesus and His Father, and laying our lives before His throne because of what He has done.

And there’s very little of that in the book.

There are lots of stories about a long-lost grandfather or a too-early-lost sister who was miscarried long before Colton was born. There are reflections about what Jesus looked like and what He was wearing. And a really hard-to-believe part about angels flying around.

But where’s the worship?

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, 
for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:11-13
Personally, I don’t want to spend my time in heaven focusing on my past hurts, losses, or griefs. I want to spend eternity focusing on the One who loves me so much that He would give his life for me.

Do I believe Colton’s story? I still don’t know. I think I will always take the 5th on that one.

Do I want to believe it? You bet.

Is his story the most important one and the story where I should focus my attention? Absolutely not.

And maybe that’s the best takeaway I could get from this book.



  1. I have to admit that I started reading this with a little trepidation. But you handled this topic VERY well! The Biblical references that you gave were perfect! I always cringe a little when I hear the stories about people who say they have visited Heaven and tell us what it was like. Their stories rarely match what we know from the Bible. Thank you for being so honest with your feelings while staying true to the scriptures!

  2. I've read this book and your comments here bring up somethings that I had never thought of. Honestly, I've read this one and 90 Minutes in Heaven and I read them for comfort. Yes, the Bible is comfort, too, but like you said, there isn't all that much in the Bible about heaven. For me, I was seeking to know a little bit about where my grandmother, what she might have been experiencing, further confirmation that all is well in her new world. Anyway, I think God used the stories in the books to just assure me that she is safe, she is loved, that I can have peace about her transition to being with me, to being with Him.

  3. Thank you for your wise and honest thoughts about this book. I have not read it, although many people I trust and love have recommended it to me. I think I'm worried I'll have a different opinion of it than they do so I've avoided it. I think I'll take a look at it now and see it differently. Thanks again.

  4. Wow! Two Kelli's! Thanks for your comments, girls. I'm glad you took away a different perspective on the book.

    Jen, thanks to you too, for commenting today. I actually found a lot of comfort in HIFR, too. I totally get what you mean.

  5. I have to say that after doing a pretty extensive study of Heaven I found this book to be wonderful.

    Actually, the Bible is full of references to Heaven all throughout its pages but we just don't realize it.

    I found Colton's story to be totally believable and very credible compared to others' I have heard or read in the past. A lot of that was because as a 4 year old child he didn't tell about it all in one chunk. He shared things that were related to something they were experiencing as a family in the context of his 4 year old mind and understanding of life.

    I had really only one issue with his account of Heaven but I think that may be because we can't really know what kind of "bodies" people will have in Paradise as opposed to what we will receive when we are resurrected from our earthly bodies to our eternal bodies.

    The most compelling thing to me was the way he comforted the dying man and seemed to be so confident as such a young child to witness death.

  6. I'm reading a fantastic book called 'Heaven: Better By Far', which is a book that pulls together lots of Bible verses and does an exegesis from them that I think is excellent. It makes me feel very excited indeed!!

    I liked your integrity in reviewing your book. I think it's good not to want to dive headfirst into everything we hear but always to go back to the Bible to treat that as our starting point.



  7. I agree, Linda. The way Colton's story unfolds really is compelling. The fact that he didn't reveal everything right away was a huge factor for my leaning toward believing him. I also agree that there are plenty of references to heaven in the Bible . . . just not many "pictures" of what heaven will look like. I probably didn't say what I meant very clearly.

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Sarah. I'll have to check it out.

  8. Shelly - this remark from me is VERY positive....

    You are UNBIELIVABLE.......



    just learning to spell

  10. Truth-filled, godly, and you've got another follower! ;)
    I highly recommend Randy Alcorn's book for anyone interested in a very Biblical book on Heaven.

  11. Dick Esgar! It's unbelievable to see you here. Thank you so much!!!

    And Lizzie (and Linda), thanks. I will definitely pick up Randy Alcorn's book.

  12. Shelly,
    I'm compelled to read it now! My ten-year-old even read it and loved it. of my avid reader, Christ-following friends read it, and she was the ONLY one of many I talked to that had similar perspectives that you share here.

    My daughter read bits and pieces to me...and I kept thinking..."I just don't know what I think about that!"

    I continually reminded her that no one REALLY knows what Heaven is like, except for the specific things outlined in Scripture...until they get there. So many mysteries left to be unveiled, and my fear is that the book may "simplify" Heaven? Perhaps not. I need to read it first probably before I make that statement. But that is my fear.

    Thanks for a bold post!

  13. Amanda, I would definitely say read it. But read it with Scripture as your filter. Like I said, I found a lot of comfort in the book, but I'm just not sure . . . Can't wait to find out, though! :)