The story of a child’s visit to heaven is a best-seller in the U.S.

Colton Burpo

The New York Times bestseller Heaven Is For Real tells the story of Colton Burpo’s near-death experience at the age of three.

Following on from the story of Paul Eicke, the 3-year-old boy in Germany who met his great-grandmother in a near-death experience (NDE), we now have a similar account from a boy in Nebraska.

Colton Burpo’s vivid NDE was full of Christian imagery as well as remarkable meetings with deceased relatives. The NDE actually happened in 2003, when Colton was, like the German boy, 3 years old.

[Note ~ Some reports say Colton was 4 years old. To be precise, the incident happened when Colton was 3 and he started talking about it four months later when he was 4.]

Stomach ache

During a family vacation trip to Greeley, Colorado, Colton started complaining of a stomach ache. He was actually suffering from a burst appendix, but this fact wouldn’t be discovered for another five days.

His parents, Todd — a garage door seller and a church pastor — and Sonja — a school teacher, took him to see a local doctor. Here, the problem was misdiagnosed as ‘flu.

Colton's parents

Colton’s parents, Sonja and Todd Burpo

The family then went back home to their small hometown of Imperial in Nebraska. Colton continued to worsen, however, so they took him to see another doctor. This one dismissed the suggestion of appendicitis and sent the family home. (What is it with these doctors?)

Colton rapidly went downhill and within a couple of days he was slipping out of consciousness. Todd and Sonja rushed their lifeless son to the Great Plains Regional Medical Center in North Platte, Nebraska. This time he was correctly diagnosed and immediately taken off into surgery.

Todd and Sonja both feared Colton was dying. While he was being operated on, they prayed in separate rooms of the hospital.

But Colton eventually recovered and was soon back to normal.

Colton, just after his recovery in 2003, with his father Todd Burpo

Colton’s accounts

One day, four months later, as they happened to be driving past the same hospital, Todd asked Colton half-jokingly if he remembered being there. Colton answered, “Yes, that’s where the angels sang to me.”

Todd remembers looking into the mirror and seeing his son’s face being dead serious, with no smile or indication that he was joking.

That was the start of a two-year period in which Colton gave more and more accounts of what he had experienced. This included:

  • during the surgery, he left his body and looked down upon the doctors operating;
  • he also saw his parents at the hospital, his father praying and his mother on the phone, but in separate rooms;
  • he met his great-grandfather, “Pop” [right], who had died in a car crash thirty years before Colton was born; but he saw “Pop” as a young man, not as an older man as shown in the Burpos’ family photo of him (Heaven, Colton says, is a place where “nobody is old and nobody wears glasses”);
  • most striking of all, he met his unborn sister.

One day while Colton was playing he walked up to Sonja and asked, out of the blue, “Mom, you had a baby die in your tummy didn’t you?”

Sonja was shocked by what her little boy had just said. She had had a miscarriage in 1998, about a year before Colton was born. But neither she nor Todd had ever mentioned this to their son.

When Sonja asked Colton who had told him about this, he said, “She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.”

He added: “She looked familiar, and she started giving me hugs, and she was glad to have someone in her family up there.”


There was also a strong Christian/Biblical element to Colton’s vision of heaven — perhaps not surprisingly, given the family’s strong faith and ties to their local church. Todd is pastor of Imperial’s Crossroads Wesleyan Church [below].

Crossroads Wesleyan Church

Crossroads Wesleyan Church, Imperial, Nebraska

Colton talks of a Heaven with pearly gates and streets of gold, and of seeing Jesus, and angels with wings, and God — a very big man sitting in a very big chair. “He’s big enough to hold the whole world in his hands.”

Note ~ It has been observed that many NDEs are imbued with symbolism that fit the experiencer’s religious belief system and expectations. Sceptics say that this merely confirms that the visions are entirely within the mind of the experiencer, like a dream or fantasy. But another interpretation is that we all begin the journey of death in whatever perceived environment is most familiar and consistent with our expectations. The astral plane is highly responsive to our thoughts: we see as we believe. So, for example, devout Christians tend to see Jesus, Mary, or a white-bearded God; Buddhists tend to see the Patriarchs; atheists see nothing (at first, until they realise they are still there); and those who believe they are going straight to hell will even experience a bit of that, until they realise that they can simply choose otherwise. These projected scenarios can help or hinder our orientation to being in the afterlife, so our spirit guides are usually there, sometimes even doing a bit of role-play within the scenario, to help us make sense of what is going on. As we adapt to being “dead” and move beyond our own fixed ideas, the scenario that first greets us opens up into vistas of pure light and love.

Consistent with the above, Colton has said: “Jesus had the angels sing to me because I was scared. They made me feel better.” He also describes doing “homework” with Jesus as his “teacher”.

Intriguingly, Colton also described being introduced to the cousin of Jesus, and being told that Jesus had been baptised by this cousin. This is evidently a reference to John the Baptist — yet Colton’s parents say that their son had yet to learn about John the Baptist in Sunday school.

Todd says that originally he and Sonja were not sure about Colton’s experience. But he is now.

“I am 100% convinced he was in heaven,” he said.

The book — Heaven Is For Real

Prompted by friends, Todd wrote about Colton’s experience in a book. Heaven Is For Real has now been on the New York Times Best Sellers List since it was released in November, and has received wide TV coverage (see below).

Here is a link to the book and audiobook at Amazon:

There is a video of Colton speaking (very confidently) about his experiences here:

Incidentally, Colton looks like a King soul to me.

For other TV news reports and interviews, see:

For more of my posts about near-death experiences, here’s an index:

23 thoughts on “The story of a child’s visit to heaven is a best-seller in the U.S.

  1. What I find particularly interesting is your note regarding the variability of NDEs according to a person’s religious viewpoint. Why would a “spirit guide” impose a frightening introduction to the afterlife simply because a person believed he/she would experience hell? That would not be “…a comforting scenario that first greets us…”

    I would suggest the probability that all formalized religious systems are generally false, regardless of their power to motivate behavior here on earth.
    That’s not saying that God doesn’t exist, but that we know much less than we think know regarding divine nature, and the consequent afterlife.

    • The scenario isn’t imposed. Rather, as far as I understand it, it is constructed automatically out of the individual’s own beliefs, expectations and desires.

      It can take some people a while to realise that they are dead. As soon as they do, they leave the physical and enter the astral, or “spirit”. But then it can also take some people a while to realise that the astral environment they perceive is moulded by thought. (This is actually addressed in the film What Dreams May Come.)

      There are those individuals (especially children) who, as they die, firmly and literally expect to go to heaven — or hell — exactly as it has been described by their religious teaching. And so long as they insist upon that reality, that reality will be projected before their very eyes (well, the non-physical equivalent of eyes). For example, if they are expecting to be greeted by a devil with a pitchfork, they will see that. But it’s not really real, and the moment they realise it is their own thought projection, they have control over it.

      There are accounts of deceased people being so crippled with negative emotions like guilt that they are too distracted to notice the Light, and refuse to even notice the beings of light who are trying to help them. They project a miserable scenario that fits their expectations. Their guides might then try to find a way to assist them within the scenario, for example by posing as a fellow inhabitant of this gloomy “hell” in order to make contact.

      It is our guides’ job to escort us after the death transition and help us reorient to the afterlife – but sometimes we make it difficult for them!

  2. first off I loved the book, it was totally a great read. I do not have an email of my own I use the libraries email address so please don’t send any emails here. I have written a book of my own call “LOCKED IN A LIFESTYLE” and was wondering if I could send you a copy I am trying very hard to get it published. It talks about trag. I have been through and saw angels. I do believe in angels. If you would like to read it I would be really happy to send you a copy. You can write me at 1300 meadowlark lane kansas city kansas 66102. thank you for your time mary joyner MJ

  3. “Colton Burpo’s vivid NDE was full of Christian imagery”

    …as it would be with all the brainwashing he would have gone through, growing up as an American Christian. The only surprise is that Jesus wasn’t waving an American flag in his dream.

    • Im sure that was supposed to come out funny but in reality it kinda showed that 1. You are not a very intelligent person to say something like that. I believe what I believe and don’t really care if you do or where you end up. 2 That your just not funny… Please don’t try to tell a joke again… I just feel bad for you now.

  4. Last year my oldest child passed away from cancer. And since her death I have had vivid dreams of heaven and she has come to me in many of my dreams to let me know that she is in heaven with Jesus. She was a believer in Jesus before she passed away. So she knew exactly where she was going prior to dying. In fact 2 days before she passed into heaven she told us she saw angels in the room and she said several times that my Dad was holding her hand and he was there to take her to heaven. The second she passed away we saw a twinkling go up from behind her head and up the steps, we knew that she was taken directly into heaven. None of us knew that my Dad had excepted Jesus before he passed away many years ago. The 1st week after she passed away strange things happened in our home at 6:23am 4 mornings in a row and she was trying to show us that she is in heaven with Jesus and we didn’t need to worry about her for she was in a great place. Since she passed away I have read a few books on this very topic and I truly believe all that I have read to be true and I look foward to the day I re-unite with my lovely daughter. So don’t be ready to judge another persons view on heaven or what the true Christian life is all about unless you have walked in that persons shoes. I greatly miss my daughter but I know she is dancing on streets of gold and no longer sick and she is young again and will remain that way forever basking in the presence of Jesus Christ with all her relatives and friends who passed on before her. Amen

  5. this is really amazing..i stay up till 2:30am listening to the auto read book..i was so touch with the story your son experience..amen! god is real..

  6. @MrMark1977 : Get over yourself. I don’t suppose you’ve spotted your own self-imposed brainwashing and painfully obvious prejudices.

  7. Clearly the work of familiar spirits taking advantage of a young boy’s vivid imagination. He had been visited by the counterfeit holy spirit, the spirit of divination, Acts 16:16 – 18. Lacking in discernment, failing to test these spirits, they were left to run wild in this families life. Who knows what the end will be? Demonization is not fun, and legal ground has been given’ Apparently there have been some spiritiual issues in the past, as we are told Grand father had suffered from BiPolar disorder. Before dismissing as a simple chemical imbalance, why not test if any spiris are involved. Colton’s involvement in the telling of this story to the world has opened the door wide for him to practice the role of medium, a practice strictly forbidden by God Deul 18. And his parents encourage it. That is what is so alarming. Colton is asked repeatidly asked about things he saw while he was there. And he tells them. No parent or authority or discerning Christin warn them as to what they are enouraging. You will be cut off if you practice these things, say the Bible. What harm will it do, you say. Just give legal ground to satan to continue to use you to encourage others to seek forbidden things. Who knows, even a spirit of divination may take over Acts 16:16-18. I feel sorry and pray for that little boy. If I am right, this little boy now maturing knows, I emphasize….KNOWS……someting is not quite right. But now he’s stuck, the whole world knows his story. He has no where to turn. Dad and Mom keep giving more interviews, and oh the shame of telling his true feelings now. Little children love to fantasize. They make up things, have imaginary friends, (tha also needs to be tested if any spirit is involved), but these parents and his church never test, or discern this might be the work of the enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5 I hope I am wrong. Only by the gra ce of God will this boy suffer no ill effect from these evil spirits sent forth to capture God’s people. Where are the people who see what is happening. Paul assumes we are not ignorant of satan’s designs. But we are. Jesus has more to say about hell and satan than he ever said about heaven. In fact, he admonishes Paul Not to say a word about what he saw……but Colton can tell all?????? Doesn’t make sense!

  8. Its a shame really! For all those people who missed the point.
    I guess they forgot what Jesus said about children. Truly theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

  9. I really would ask Colton’s father to answer, in the light of scripture,
    1. how Colton’s revealing things about heaven line up with Paul’s experience in 2 Cor 12:5 where he stated it wasn’t lawful to talk about it
    2. Colton described Gabriel as an archangel – I thought Michael was the only archangel mentioned in the Bible
    3. a battle in heaven?? and satan being kicked out? how does that fit in with Revelation. Did this all happen when Colton was there?
    4. Colton didn’t see his grandmother? or other relatives?
    5. Was Colton’s experience meant to just comfort people – no gospel message regarding repentance and accepting Jesus as saviour?

    • Google ‘list of archangels’ and read.
      There are several other texts that generally go unread unless you really look for them.

    • There are four arch angels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Lucifer. Lucifer fell (becoming Satan) and Uriel is only mentioned in the Apocrypha. Of course, your only goal is to knit pick so I’m sure you’ll just remove that particularly snide bullet point and replace it with something equally irrelevant. Why don’t you go try and rain on somebody else’s parade? You don’t believe it. Great, that’s your choice. Go enjoy being smuggly enlightened, condescendingly superior, and miserably hopeless, but why try and destroy the hope of others? It’s frankly just mean spirited and petty. I feel sorry for you.

    • What about the stuff that does add up and make since… Still the neg way of thinking appeals more to you huh? Good luck with that

  10. I totally agree with you abbie. (not to sound self-righteous) but somebody who had a near-death made an excellent point that “…to love and play like a child is holy”. these are some of the most comforting words I’ve ever heard, for me anyway. there’s no room for cynicism or compulsiveness or political correctness in heaven it’s natural.

    If I can continue I’m a christian (by choice). Spirituality is the key word here but people get too hung up on religion…I guess because some may be too scared to think outside the box. I guess what I’m really saying is that life is simple, like a child but we as adult minds we have the wonderful power to make important decisions, (good or bad) that impact the earth

  11. God exit. Heaven exit, If you are still doubting you are heading towards hell. Christ use children because they do not have sin. We need to believe and understand that he truely exist.
    it is not happening to children alone but to those who seek God in truth and who worship him in good faith. Be ready for the rapture because it is coming soon.
    Weigh every comment you make on issues to do with the Holy spirit because you may insult the true God and head to doom.

    Believe in him and he shall save you from all sins and the death that is set for satan and his angels.

  12. All I can say is don’t believe it if you don’t want to. I find it ridiculous that people will believe some outrageous scientific explanation instead of believing there is a heaven or god… I would much rather live life believing in god & find out its not real then live my life as if there isn’t a god and find out he is real. We all have our own minds and can believe what we want… but I truly feel sad for those that don’t believe …. Hope whoever doesn’t believe changes their minds bcause the time is coming very soon….then it will be to late.

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