Doctrinal Insights from ‘Heaven is For Real’

Several years ago, after I had read the book Heaven is Real, I jotted down these notes. I thought I might share them with you, just to see what you thought about them. If the vision that Colton Burpo received was true, then we might receive these truths about the spiritual world.

  • The Resurrection of The Dead
    • The righteous dead already have new, recognizable bodies with reference to their previous bodies, and know the events following their demise, at least regarding their own family.
    • All the dead, have wings (like angels).
    • Babies who die in utero live on in Heaven. Example: Colton’s unborn sister died at two months gestation. When he sees her in Heaven, she is not a fetus, but a little girl, who has apparently aged. Do babies who die (or are killed) in utero grow into children and later adults in Heaven? She was not named on earth; she has none in Heaven. The Burpos assumed that they would have the responsibility of naming her. (If they had named her posthumously, would she then have a name?)


  • Salvation in Jesus Christ
    • Salvation and entrance into Heaven is based solely on faith in Jesus Christ. The particulars and rituals (such as confession, baptism by immersion) are not mentioned (nor do they apply as strictly in Wesleyan doctrine as they do in the Restoration Movement Churches, so the author wouldn’t have made much of them anyway).
    • But, without a doubt, faith in Christ is essential, however displayed, to gain entrance to Heaven.


  • The Physical Presence and Reality of Satan
    • Satan’s presence is seen from Heaven.
    • His description is not mentionable by Colton. (Too terrifying?)


  • The End of Days
    • There is a War in which women and children watch the men battle the forces of evil with swords. (The book states unequivocally that such a war takes place in the future, but Colton sees it already happening, so while the author may believe it is in the future, it may already be occurring. On the other hand, Colton’s insights are rarely, if ever, symbolic. He describes things as he sees them, not as images which point to something else.)
    • More importantly, Colton describes his father is already fighting, which means that if this is a reference to the end times, they are within the lifetime of the author.


  • Trinitarian Doctrine
    • Jesus is a physically recognizable presence, who sits at the right hand of God the Father, and loves children, especially. He also goes up and down (without wings). Jesus hears our prayers and directs the answers. He also receives the dead.
    • God the Father is a physically imposing presence, huge to behold.
    • God the Holy Spirit is perceived as a blue aura, but He sends power to His servants in a visible way, to empower them for ministry to others.

For the rest of Colton’s visions, the greatest objections to them stem not from whether they agree with the Bible, but our doctrinal interpretations of it. The book passes the same tests we apply to the gospels, in that is written in the lifetime of the people mentioned in it, so that it is verifiable. If there were any serious objection to its facts, the book has been out long enough to have been rebutted several times (the events themselves occurred in 2003).

Reflection (written 8/28/18):

However, Colton is not and has not been considered an apostle, so, there’s that.  I have no doubt that Mr. Burpo said he saw all the things that he saw. That much is recorded history. Whether his father had a hand in massaging his son’s story or not, I cannot know. The fact that Colton had an accident, that he nearly died (or did actually die on the table) are facts that have been repeated by many, and thus not exactly rare. We could go back to the hospital Colton was treated in and probably find all these things corroborated.

However, the testimony that Colton shares does have troubling insights. How much of what is above agrees with Scripture? With revealed testimony from the prophets and apostles? And with whom do we agree? I hate to say this, but Paul says it better:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:8-9)

I cannot fault Mr. Colton, but I can fault those who would seek to use his testimony to undermine Scripture, using the testimony of the dead (or briefly so) and make some extra bucks. The book, written by his father, became a movie not long ago, and I’m sure did very well. But his father stated that he is a minister himself. Would he not have know that his son’s testimony could be used by some to alter and even disregard the statements of Scripture. If Faith in Jesus was enough, why do so many of the apostles insist on baptism? If all who die in Christ become angels, then what makes angels special in the Bible? Are they dead people too? As the three-fold presence of God is described, does that support or undermine trinitarian thinking?

When Paul went to the “third heaven”  he knew enough to say this:

And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2Co 12:3-4)

Maybe Paul saw some of the same things that Colton did. Maybe not. But Paul wisely chose not to reveal these things, even as an inspired apostle, to his readers. Is it possible that people would be far more interested in what awaits us in heaven, and ignore the responsibility of inviting others to it?

When it comes to books like this one, books which some call, Heaven Tourism, I feel it comes dangerously close to necromancy, that is, to consult the dead (or briefly so) to get insight into the future. The Bible strictly forbids this. Because even the Devil can masquerade as an angel of light and lead millions to Hell.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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