Wow. It seems to be a banner year for controversial biblical- and Christian-themed movies. Next on BreakPoint, the story behind “Heaven Is for Real.” Stay tuned.
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Imagine going through the worst event of your life: the near-death of your child during emergency surgery. Then imagine that fully-recovered child saying things afterwards that just don't make sense.
For instance, he says he was “lifted up” during his surgery, and saw his mother in one room telephoning friends, and his father in another room “yelling at God”--which is exactly what his parents were doing.
He also said he was so frightened that Jesus held him on His lap. That angels sang to him. And that his older sister—who had died during a miscarriage—ran up and hugged him. And he says all of this happened during a visit to Heaven.
Well, even the child's parents, Todd and Sonja Burpo, had a hard time believing what their four-year-old son, Colton, was telling them.
But then Burpo, a small-town Nebraska pastor, and his wife, a teacher, began comparing what Colton was saying with biblical passages about Heaven. Colton, who had been exposed only to the simplest concepts about God in Sunday School, was giving them descriptions of Heaven that matched up perfectly with complex passages in the book of Revelation.
As Todd Burpo put it, he began to be convinced that his son really had visited Heaven during a particular conversation, when little Colton spoke “of things that he saw in Heaven that I knew he had never read about in the Bible—[because he had not yet learned to read] and he was so biblically accurate....But when he talked about meeting his sister in Heaven and then talks about my Granddad and speaks of how I played with him (my Grandad) as a little kid—and he's not missing any details and these details are right!”
There is, Burpo concluded, “no way a four-year-old can invent things like that.”
The Burpos began speaking about Colton's experiences at funerals as a way to comfort the grieving. They wrote a book titled “Heaven is for Real,” which has sold an astonishing ten million copies. And a film based on the book, starring Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly, has just been released.
Todd Burpo says the book and the film offer the same message: that Heaven is a real and wonderful place that we’re going to enjoy living in. In interviews, he says most Christians don't think much about Heaven, while others are afraid of the unknown. They want to know what loved ones will look like, and how they’ll recognize them.
As to why God might have chosen Colton for such an amazing witness, Burpo says, “I think God still uses personal experiences to draw people to Himself.”
While the film includes characters and events that were invented for dramatic purposes, Burpo says that Colton still “points everything toward Jesus Christ.” Jesus, he says, “came and got him and talked with him. It starts and ends with Jesus.”
To learn more about the film and how the book changed the lives of the Burpo family, visit BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll link you to the interview my friend and colleague Anne Morse did with Todd Burpo himself.
We’ll also link you to Christianity Today’s review of the movie. The film is getting positive reviews, even from secular critics. But given the sensational topic (a trip to heaven and back) and the theological questions it raises, consider this: If you do decide to go and watch it, maybe take an unsaved friend and, perhaps over a cup of coffee, discuss the film's primary theme: that Heaven is a real and beautiful place.
But then be sure to tell the rest of the story: That Jesus died for our sins so that we could live with Him forever.