What happens when we die? This is a question that has clouded the thinking of mankind for centuries. As far back as my memory goes, I can remember hearing stories of people who have “near death experiences” and who see the light, the loved ones, or in some cases, terrible and scary things. Have those people had a glimpse into the afterlife? It’s a terribly subjective topic and one that must be delicately handled.
Todd Burpo’s Heaven is for Realis a book that explores this topic. Todd, husband, the father of three and pastor of a small Wesleyan church lived through an incredible experience with his now middle child. The son, Colton suffered from an illness at the age of three that almost killed him. During this time, Colton later revealed to his parents, Colton was provided a glimpse into Heaven. He would later report to his parents stories of wonderful detail of Jesus, Mary, John the Baptist, and loved ones long passed from this Earth. Todd Burpo decided it would be a good idea to write a book about the experience and to share with others that indeed, Heaven is for Real.
The story of Colton’s illness is an incredible one. As a father, I wiped tears from my eyes on more than one occasion as Todd explains the ordeal and pain of almost losing a child to illness. It is a touching story and Todd Burpo’s explanation of how his faith was rocked is excellently presented.
The book also does a decent job of finding scriptural backing of what the boy claims to have seen and provides the reader with insight to why the Burpo’s felt the need to write this book. Far be it from this reader to doubt the truth or story that Todd Burpo has laid forth. At the same time, I read this story with the same caution that I approach all claims of glimpses into the other side of life.
While I thought the book did an excellent job of being subjective and was offering nothing more than hope, I was put off by the fact that toward the end Burpo drew a parallel between “doubting” Thomas and those who may not believe their story. This of course only came after the story had deteriorated into some aspects that were, to say the least, less than Biblical and bordering on self-promotion.
I do not doubt that what Colton experienced was real. At the same time, I personally would never present this story to anyone asking for Bible study about Heaven. This is one subjective experience of many that I have heard. While it is sweet and innocent and touching because of the young child, this story could never replace the descriptions provided in the word of God.
I enjoyed this book and think that any Christian reader would find glimpses of hope within its pages. Would I suggest one buy this book, yes. It will challenge you and cause you to think. Buy it only if you are willing to follow the scriptural references and trace the parallel between some of Colton’s stories and what is revealed in scripture. There are some holes to be found in that sense.