Heaven Is for Real

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Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back is a 2010 New York Times best-selling Christian book written by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent and published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The book documents the report of a near-death experience by Burpo's three-year-old son Colton.

Heaven is for Real
Heaven Is for Real (Burpo book) cover.jpg
AuthorTodd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
CountryUnited States
Publication date
November 2, 2010
Media typePrint (paperback, hardcover), ebook, audiobook
WebsiteOfficial website

By April 2012, more than one million ebooks had been sold,[1] and more than 10 million copies had been sold by 2014.[2] A feature film based on the book was released on April 16, 2014, earning $101 million at the box office.[3]


Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent co-wrote this book when Todd Burpo's three-year-old son had appendicitis. When Colton's mother, Sonja, first noticed he was not feeling well she took him to the emergency room and was told that Colton had influenza, as all the tests for a possible appendicitis came back negative. As time passed on, Colton continuously kept throwing up, which is when Todd and Sonja knew that he did not just have influenza. When Todd and Sonja went to a different emergency room with Colton, they were told that Colton had to have an emergency appendectomy or he could possibly die.[4] Months after surviving the emergency surgery to remove his appendix, Colton shared the story of how he left his body during surgery and went to heaven. Colton began describing events and people that seemed impossible for him to have known about. Examples include knowledge of an unborn sister miscarried by his mother in 1998 and details of a great-grandfather who had died 30 years before Colton was born.[5] Colton also explained how he met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus' lap while angels sang songs to him.[6][7] He also saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.[8]


Colton Burpo is the three-year-old son (at time of incident) of Todd Burpo and Sonja Burpo. At the time of the incident, Todd Burpo was pastor at a Crossroads church in Nebraska. Sonja Burpo was a teacher at a local school. Cassie Burpo is the older sister of Colton Burpo. Pop was Todd Burpo's grandfather and Dr. O’Holleran was the doctor who performed the emergency appendectomy on Colton.



Within ten weeks of its November 2010 release, the book debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times bestseller list; by January 2011 there were 200,000 copies in print; and it reached No. 1 in the Times's best-selling non-fiction paperback category in March 2011, remaining in the top 10 for some weeks.[9][10]


A variety of Christians have expressed questions regarding the book. The Berean Call, a Christian ministry and newsletter, cited the book for its "extra-biblical" and "problematic" claims, as well as the lack of any medical evidence that the boy was clinically dead during the surgery.[11] Author and pastor John MacArthur has criticized the book for presenting an un-Biblical perspective on the afterlife.[12] In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, Heaven Is for Real co-author Lynn Vincent expressed concern that Christians would find the book to be a "hoax" if she included people in heaven having wings.[13][14]

In 2015, Alex Malarkey – a boy with a similar story to Colton Burpo's – publicly recanted his own story and book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, stating that his near-death experience described in that book was fictional,[15] and condemned Christian publishers and bookstores for selling popular "heaven tourism" books, which he said "profit from lies."[16][17] Following Malarkey's statement, Colton Burpo said that while he acknowledged that some among the public had doubts about his account, he stood by Heaven Is for Real's contents nonetheless.[18]


In less than just one year of being released, this book surpassed the 1 million sales and was awarded the Platinum sales Award. Then in 2014 after seeing 10 million copies, the book was then awarded the Diamond Sales Award.[19]

Film adaptationEdit

In May 2011, Sony Pictures acquired the film rights of the book. The film was released on April 16, 2014 starring Connor Corum, Margo Martindale, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, and Jacob Vargas.[20] As of July 2014, Rotten Tomatoes rated it at 46%. Critics praised the script and cast, but they were critical of heavy-handed exposition.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Heaven Is For Real reaches one million e-books sold". Thomas Nelson Corporate.
  2. ^ Christine D. Johnson (December 11, 2014). "'Heaven Is for Real' hits major sales milestone". Christian Retailing. Archived from the original on December 18, 2014.
  3. ^ "Heaven Is for Real". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  4. ^ Johnson, David. "Is "Heaven Is for Real" for Real?". Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  5. ^ Thomson, Cask J. (March 27, 2011). "The Boy Who Allegedly Went to Heaven and Returned". WordsWithMeaning.org. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012.
  6. ^ "The angels sang to Colton". The North Platte Telegraph. January 13, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  7. ^ "Kathie Lee and Hoda with the Scoop" (Video(11:23)). The Today Show. NBC.[dead link]
  8. ^ Thibault, Joanne (June 4, 2011). "Near-death experience led to heaven's door". Winnipeg Free Press. Todd is even able to report to Christian friends that Colton 'saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.'
  9. ^ Sehgal, Parul (April 6, 2014). "Best Sellers" (Paperback Nonfiction). New York Times.
  10. ^ Bosman, Julie (March 11, 2011). "Celestial Sales for Boy's Tale of Heaven". The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  11. ^ "Is "Heaven Is for Real" for Real?: An Exercise In Discernment". The Berean Call. Archived from the original on November 8, 2013. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  12. ^ "Are Visits to Heaven for Real?". Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  13. ^ Ariel Levy (October 15, 2012). "Lives of the Saints". New Yorker.
  14. ^ Phil Johnson (October 18, 2012). "The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine". Grace to you.
  15. ^ "Alex Malarkey, Little Boy Who 'Came Back from Heaven,' Reveals Hoax : People.com". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  16. ^ a b Mark Woods (January 15, 2015). "'The boy who came back from heaven' Alex Malarkey says best-selling book is false". Christianity Today.
  17. ^ a b Vencent Funaro (January 15, 2015). "Boy Who Claimed He Visited Heaven Reads Bible and Recants Story; LifeWay to Pull Book From Stores". Christian Post.
  18. ^ Carey Lodge (January 17, 2015). "Colton Burpo stands by Heaven is for Real". Christianity Today.
  19. ^ Challies, Tim. "The Bestsellers: Heaven Is For Real". Challies. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Heaven Is For Real". The "Heaven is Real" page on the Sony Pictures website. The Sony Pictures website. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  21. ^ "Heaven Is for Real (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 21, 2014.

External linksEdit