Heaven is for Real is a classic example of a child experiencing the near death phenomenon. What makes this book so believable is the fact that the reported near death experience was that of a small child, who had no motivation to lie or to alter his story.
In Heaven is for Real, Colton, a four year old boy, is rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Doctors at first assume that the boy's malady is a simple stomach bug, but the situation turns out to be much more serious. After several mishaps at the hospital, there appears to be only a slim chance that Colton will survive.
Defying the odds, Colton's surgery is a success, and he is soon able to return home. At first Colton says nothing about the near death experience that he will later describe to his family. Skeptics have said that he said nothing because the whole “experience” was a story fabricated after the fact, but I think the real reason is simpler. To Colton, a four year old boy, the experience was just something that happened - and if it happened to him, then it must happen to everyone - so why go crazy over it?
The first hint to Colton’s parents of his extraordinary experience occurs a few months later, when the family drives past the hospital where the boy’s appendectomy was performed. His mother asks him whether or not he remembers the hospital, and his reply is: “Yes, Mommy, I remember. That’s where the angels sang to me.”
Colton later goes on to tell his parents that he sat in Jesus’s lap, watched the war with the devil, and met some deceased family members. One family member he saw was his miscarried sister, which is especially remarkable because no one had ever told him about his mother’s miscarriage (which occurred when he was only about two). He could not have made this up!
There are several things which Colton recalls seeing, such as the war with the devil and the throne room of God (where he saw Jesus seated at God’s right hand), which the afterlife evidence overwhelmingly indicates do not exist. But the fact that some traditional Christian teachings about death and the afterlife are not consistent with the afterlife evidence doesn’t negate the validity of this boy’s story.
Clearly, Colton had some type of near death experience. He was able to tell his parents things that he would have had no way of learning otherwise. So, why was his experience so different from most reported NDEs? Colton’s father is a pastor, and devoted to Christianity. By the time the boy had his experience, he had already been steeped in Christian Bible stories and teachings about the afterlife.
We are learning that death is a highly subjective experience. People who die with strong convictions about what the afterlife will be like will often initially find just what they expected, in a comforting made-for-them “hollow heaven” where they can rest for a time and from which they can later be rescued. Indeed, there is evidence that every glimpse of paradise that is part of any near-death experience is a hollow heaven, and that by definition no NDE experiencer makes it to the Summerland levels and returns. So for Colton to have been sidelined this way was only normal. The most likely explanation for this child’s experience is that his guides and spiritual helpers realized that he would be most comfortable in a version of heaven that was familiar to him. Children are the closest thing there is to royalty in the afterlife, so advanced beings would have worked tirelessly to create the greatest possible Colton experience!
Heaven is for Real was lovingly written by Colton’s father, Todd Burpo. It is a highly enjoyable account of one child’s adventures with the afterlife. Colton’s experience does not accurately represent what the evidence tells us actually happens at death, but instead it is a wonderful account of the loving extent to which efforts will be made to comfort a child who is there just temporarily. I do recommend this book. But I also urge you to remember that the descriptions of the afterlife in Heaven is For Real are not entirely consistent with the descriptions given by most near death experiencers.