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. It was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The book documents the report of a near-death experience by Burpo's three-year-old son Colton. The book recounts the experiences that Colton relates from visits which he said he made to heaven throughout a near-death experience.

By April 2012 over one million ebooks had been sold,[2] and by 2014 over 10 million copies had been sold.[4] A movie based on the book was released on April 16, 2014, earning $101 million at the box office.[5]

Summary

In the book, Todd Burpo, pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska, writes that throughout the months after his son, Colton, had emergency surgery in 2003 at the age of three,[6] 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 and details of a great-grandfather who had passed away 30 years before Colton was born.[7] Colton additionally explained how he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus' lap while angels sang songs to him.[8][9] He additionally saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at additional times standing beside Jesus.[10]

Response

Sales

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. The book hit No. 1, remaining in the top 10 for a few weeks. It became the No. 1 best-selling non-fiction paperback.[11][12]

Criticism

A variety of Christians have expressed criticism or concern about the book's content and message. The Berean Call, a Christian ministry and newsletter, criticised the book for its "extra-biblical" and "problematic" claims, as well as the lack of any medical evidence that the boy was clinically dead throughout the surgery.[2] Author and pastor John MacArthur has criticised the book for presenting an un-Biblical perspective on the afterlife.[2] In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, Vincent expressed concern that Christians would find the book to be a "hoax" if she included people in heaven having wings.[2][2]

In 2015, Alex Malarkey publicly disavowed the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, stating that his near-death experience described in that book was fictional[2] and condemned Christian publishers and bookstores for selling popular "heaven tourism" books, which he said "profit from lies."[18][19] Following Malarkey's statement, Colton Burpo expressed that "People have their doubts about my story," but said he stood by the book.[2]

Film adaptation

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.[2] As of July 2014, Rotten Tomatoes rated it at 46%. Critics praised the script and cast, but they were critical of heavy-handed exposition.[4]