Descriptions of Heaven From Colton Burpo’s Visit

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Heaven Is For Real" by Todd Burpo. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are Colton Burpo’s descriptions of Heaven? Do they match those from the Bible? Could he have gone to Heaven if he didn’t die?

In Heaven Is for Real, toddler Colton Burpo claims he went to Heaven during a surgery on his appendix. Over the next few years, Colton reveals descriptions of Heaven to his father, pastor Todd.

Keep reading for Colton’s descriptions of Heaven.

Colton Burpo’s Descriptions of Heaven

After four-year-old Colton Burpo mentioned to his dad that he had seen Jesus in Heaven, Pastor Todd Burpo wanted descriptions of the Heaven Colton saw. Pastor Todd decided to question Colton again—this time, with his wife Sonja there, too. He began by asking Colton what he’d done in Heaven. Colton responded that he’d done “homework,” and that Jesus had acted as his teacher. Moreover, there had been many other children in his heavenly “class.” (Note: At the time, Colton was able to name many of the children he met in Heaven. However, by the time Todd started to write about Colton’s experience, they’d both forgotten the children’s names.)

Next, Todd asked for more descriptions of Heaven, like what the people in Heaven had looked like. Colton stated that almost everyone had wings that they used to fly around, although he admitted, with some annoyance, that his wings had been very small. The only exception to this rule was Jesus, who didn’t have wings but could still fly. Specifically, he could move up and down in the air like an elevator. In Todd’s eyes, this matched the biblical description of Jesus flying up to Heaven during the Ascension. 

Colton also stated that everyone in Heaven had lights shining above their heads. Todd inferred that Colton was describing halos, which, he conceded, aren’t mentioned in the Bible. However, the Bible does mention dazzling light surrounding angels, so Todd believed Colton’s description wasn’t completely implausible. 

Finally, Todd wanted to know how much time Colton had spent in Heaven. Colton responded that he’d been there for a mere three minutes. Todd was baffled: Could so much really have happened to Colton in three minutes? However, he then remembered that Colton couldn’t tell the time yet, so what he thought of as “three minutes” may have been much longer. Likewise, the Bible implies that time doesn’t necessarily work the same way in Heaven as it does on Earth: Three “Earth” minutes may have felt like hours in Heaven.

Todd’s Doubt: Did Colton “Die”?

During this conversation with Colton about the descriptions of Heaven, Todd contemplated a doubt he’d been having about his son’s claims. Todd believed that only people who’ve died could go to Heaven. But according to Colton’s medical records, he hadn’t clinically “died” during either of his surgeries—so how could he have made it to Heaven? Was this proof that Colton’s experience was a dream, rather than a real event?

Todd questioned Colton about this issue, and Colton was adamant that he had died—just for a short while. However, Todd felt that Colton said that because he thought it was what should have happened, not necessarily because it was the truth. Colton had learned that only dead people made it to Heaven, so he assumed that he had died, even though he hadn’t. Todd’s doubts remained.

Then, Todd remembered various sections of the Bible in which people went to Heaven when alive. Most notably, in the book of Revelation, the apostle John described visiting Heaven during a period of exile. Perhaps Colton could have visited Heaven while alive after all.

Colton Shares Miscellaneous Descriptions of Heaven and Jesus

From 2003 to 2004, Colton shared various other miscellaneous descriptions of Heaven, Jesus, and the afterlife:

  • From late 2003 to early 2004, Colton occasionally gave more information about what Heaven looked like, notably stating that the gates to Heaven were gold and had pearls decorating them. Heaven itself was made from a “shiny material,” possibly gold or silver, and was full of beautiful foliage. 
  • On Good Friday in 2004, Colton revealed that Jesus told him that he died on the cross so that people could go to Heaven and meet God. 
  • In late April 2004, Colton got in trouble for running out into the parking lot at a fast-food restaurant. Todd warned Colton that if he wasn’t careful, he’d get hit by a car and killed. Colton responded that this would be a good thing since he’d get to go back to Heaven. 
  • In August 2004, Todd had to visit a dying man who’d been a minister for most of his life. He took Colton with him and explained to his son that the man was preparing to go to Heaven. When they reached the dying man’s house, Colton told the man that the first person he’d see upon arrival in Heaven was Jesus.

One night in fall 2004, Sonja encouraged Colton to pray for Todd to get lots of study time in preparation for his sermon that Sunday. In response, Colton stated that in the past, he’d seen Jesus “shoot power down” to Todd when he spoke in church. When Todd asked Colton what this “power” was, Colton replied that it was the Holy Spirit.

Descriptions of Heaven From Colton Burpo’s Visit

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Todd Burpo's "Heaven Is For Real" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Heaven Is For Real summary :

  • Why 4-year-old Colton Burpo believed he had visited Heaven
  • What Burpo saw during his time in Heaven, including proof it was real
  • How the experience strengthened the faith of the Burpo family

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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