Although encouraged to see how God spared the Burpo’s little boy's life and provided for their medical bills, thumbing through the book, I was immediately alarmed by what I was reading.
I am so thankful we are grounded in a biblical church, and that I know my Bible well enough to know that his tale is not in line with what the Bible teaches. At the same time, I am deeply disturbed that so many people are reading this book (it is a New York Times #1 bestseller) and coming away thinking it's an accurate, theologically sound picture of heaven. Far from it.
I am also deeply troubled that Colton's own father is a pastor and never once refutes Colton's claims with Scripture. He backs them up with Scripture when they conveniently seem to support Colton's stories, but he never tells readers who may have limited theological or biblical understanding that the Bible presents a different picture from his son on certain topics, such as his son’s report that all people except Jesus fly with wings and that the angel Gabriel sits on a throne to the left of God the Father. People are being misled by this book and are basing their views of heaven on what Colton says and the new information he presents.
For Colton's story of his trip to heaven to be true, it must agree with what Scripture teaches about heaven. If it doesn't, either the Bible is wrong, or Colton's story is wrong. Since no one else seems to be doing it, let me provide the Scriptural evidence to disprove some of Colton's most troublesome, Scripturally inaccurate claims.
1) Colton claims people have wings in heaven.
Page 72: Todd Burpo writes,
“So what did the kids look like? What do people look like in heaven?"If you look up references to wings in the Bible, you will find passages conveying biblical truths using bird metaphors. Isaiah 40:31 talks about how those who “hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;” Jesus says in Luke 13:34 that he longed to gather his people to him like a “hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” Birds were created with wings. Man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1), without wings.
“Everybody’s got wings,” Colton said.
Wings, hugh? “Did you have wings?” I asked.
“Yeah, but mine weren’t very big.” He looked a little glum when he said this.
“Okay…did you walk places or did you fly?”
“We flew. Well, all except for Jesus. He was the only one in heaven who didn’t have wings. Jesus just went up and down like an elevator.”
In 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, Paul writes about the resurrection body. He says, “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.” God created us in His image (Genesis 1), as men and women, with a human body, not as a bird with wings. Paul also writes, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Cor. 15: 49).
Our bodies will be resurrected, like Christ’s. Therefore, if Jesus does not have wings, we will not have wings. Also, in the description of heaven, Revelation 21:24 says, “The nations will walk by its light.” Notice the word “walk”—not fly.
Further, in the account of Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew chapter 17, when the disciples saw Moses and Elijah, they recognized them. “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4). No mention of them having wings.
Jesus' resurrected body did not include a set of wings, and we are told we will be like Him.
2) Colton claims people have lights over their heads in heaven.
“Everyone kind of looks like angels in heaven, Dad.”Todd Burpo goes on to cite what he claims to be Scriptural evidence of lights over one’s head, using the examples of the angel appearing to Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb (that his appearance was like lightning), Stephen’s face as “bright as an angel’s” during his stoning, and John writing in Revelation about a mighty angel with a “rainbow over his head,” and that the angel’s face “shone like the sun.”
“What do you mean?”
“All the people have a light above their head.”
It seems that what Colton was trying to describe was a halo, which the Bible does not say exists, but is depicted in virtually all children’s Bible stories, Renaissance art, and other drawings that a four-year old would most likely have been exposed to—even though his dad (who is a pastor) says he was not exposed to pictures like this.
The description given in the book of Revelation of those in heaven is that they are wearing “fine linen, white and clean.” (Revelation 21:14). No mention of lights above heads. Either it’s new and extrabiblical, or it’s a made-up story from an imaginative kid.
3) Colton claims Jesus has a rainbow horse and that he got to pet him. (page 63).
When the Bible talks about Jesus with a horse, the horse mentioned is always white. (Revelation 19:11, 14).
4) Colton's depiction of God's throne.
This is Colton's account:
"Well, what did God’s throne look like?” [asks his dad]He then goes on to claim that’s where he met his Dad’s grandpa, sitting by the Holy Spirit.
Colton: “It was big, Dad…really, really big, because God is the biggest one there is…And do you know that Jesus sits right next to God?...Jesus’ chair is right next to his Dad’s!”
“It was another one of those moments when I thought, He had to have seen this…'Well, who sits on the other side of God’s throne?’”
Colton: “Oh, that’s easy Dad. That’s where the angel Gabriel is. He’s really nice.”
Todd writes, “Gabriel. That makes sense,” and then cites Luke chapter 1, when Gabriel foretells John the Baptist’s birth and says, 'I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…'
“So I’d had my glimpse into God’s throne room, but Colton’s descriptions had me wondering: if God the Father was seated on his throne with Jesus on his right and Gabriel on his left, where was Colton?”…
“Where did you sit, Colton?” I asked.
Colton: “They brought in a little chair for me, he said smiling. “I sat by God the Holy Spirit.”
“What does God look like?” I said. “God the Holy Spirit?”
Colton furrowed his brow, “Hmm, that’s kind of a hard one…he’s kind of blue.”
So that’s what Colton says about the throne room of heaven. This is what the Bible says:
First, though, let's not forget all the Scriptures that tell us that God the Father is invisible. ("The Son is the image of the invisible God."--Col. 1:15; Jesus: "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known"--John 1:18).
So how could Colton have possibly seen God the Father, and can he--the God of the Universe--possibly be contained to a "really big throne"?
If that's not enough, let's look at a biblical description of heaven's throne room:
Revelation chapter 4:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven…At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones, and seated on them were 24 elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumbles and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4: 1-11).There is also another account of the Lord seated on his throne in Isaiah 6:1-4, which corresponds with the Revelation account.
Neither of these accounts resemble Colton’s account to any degree.
5) Colton claims to have seen Satan in heaven, which was revealed three years after his supposed “trip” to heaven, ironically after watching the battle scene in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Colton's mom: “Well, I guess that’s one thing you didn’t like about heaven—no swords up there.”The rest of the page goes on to describe how Colton shut down and never did want to talk about seeing Satan.
“There are too swords in heaven!” he said.”
“Um…okay. Why do they need swords in heaven?”
“Mom, Satan’s not in hell yet,” Colton said, almost scolding. “The angels carry swords so they can keep Satan out of heaven!”…
Dad: "Hey, Colton…” “Did you see Satan?”
“Yeah, I did,” he said solemnly.
He also claimed that he saw the coming great battle known as Armaggedon—that, “in heaven, the women and the children got to stand back and watch” the future battle while the men fight.
Refuting these claims is a bit more involved, as doing so requires a comprehensive biblical theology about heaven, evil, Satan, and his eternal doom. But let me begin with Isaiah 14: 12, which says,
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star,…You have been cast down to the earth…”Some scholars believe this refers to Satan. Scholars also believe that Ezekiel 28 offers information about the fall of Satan, through allegory with the king of Tyre.
Jesus said in Luke 10:18 that He saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 about a time when he was caught up to the third heaven.
“Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man—either in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).Paul refuses to speak of them but says they were wondrous. Would angels walking around on patrol to keep evil out be your version of paradise?
That is also certainly not the vision of heaven portrayed in John’s vision, recorded in the book of Revelation:
“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.Numerous passages present that Satan lost his place in heaven and was “hurled down” to the earth, along with his fallen angels. While he may be “roaming throughout the earth” (Job 1:7), Scripture also says that until he is bound for eternity, Satan maintains access to God. In the words of my pastor, Jack Olsen:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down….Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short.’ When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child…Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:7-17).
“Rev. 12:10 says he accuses the brethren before our God day and night. There is some debate about where to place this passage chronologically, but I believe this describes a yet future casting of Satan out of heaven for good. He was cast out of his original position in heaven (Ezek. 28:16), but still has limited access to accuse the brethren before God (also Job 1:6).”For a clear picture of the eternal heaven, we can look at Revelation chapter 21:
“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21: 27).
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Rev. 22:14, 15).In conclusion, I fully agree that heaven is for real. But since there are so many elements of his story that contradict Scripture, Colton didn't take a real trip to heaven. Besides, his operative report (included in the book) shows he never left his body. This isn't being passed off as a "vision," or a possibly fictitious story from a then four-year old. (Besides, kids have great imaginations and have a hard time distinguishing fantasy from reality). It's being passed along as fact. That's where the problem lies. If you want a true peek at heaven, check out the Bible.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they will fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:16).Have you read the book? What do you think about it all?
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