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According to the Heaven is for Real true story, on Thursday, February 27, 2003, Colton Burpo, then three years and ten months old, complained to his mother Sonja that his stomach hurt. Unbeknownst to his parents at the time, this was the first sign of appendicitis. Sonja took him to the doctor, who told her it was the stomach flu. By the next morning he was feeling better. Colton, his mother, and his older sister Cassie left that day to meet Colton's father, Pastor Todd Burpo, who had already traveled to Greeley, Colorado, where he was scheduled to have a district board meeting for the Wesleyan church (the trip had a duel purpose and wasn't just a vacation like in the movie). They did visit the Butterfly Pavilion (pictured below). It was later that day, while still in Greeley, that Todd's 3-year-old son's condition took a drastic turn for the worse, eventually landing the boy in the operating room fighting for his life.
Yes, Colton did hold Rosie the tarantula, but he held her during the family's initial trip to the Butterfly Pavilion, prior to his surgery. Colton's father did not make a special trip back to the "invertebrate zoo" after the surgery. Like in the movie, Colton was initially too afraid to hold the spider, but his desire for a sticker convinced him to hold Rosie just prior to leaving. -Heaven is for Real book
Not exactly. In the Heaven is for Real book, the real Todd Burpo mentions that the year prior to Colton's emergency surgery was a rocky one, with injury and illness that included a shattered leg, two surgeries, kidney stones, and a cancer scare. He says that the family's bank account had been drained to such a degree that he could almost hear "sucking sounds" when the statements came in the mail. Just when Todd's shattered leg was finally almost behind him and it seemed like things had begun to turn a corner, they quickly found themselves back in the hospital for a near two week long stay following Colton's burst appendix. After Colton was discharged, they were faced with a stack of accumulated bills that totaled around $23,000, and there were more on the way. Family, friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances began sending them money, which helped them significantly.
No. As he states in the book, his pastor's salary was small. The family's main source of income was an overhead garage door business that Todd operated. He also served as a volunteer fireman and high school wrestling coach.
The Burpos are Protestants. One of the major differences between Protestants and Catholics, for example, is that Protestants deny the universal authority of the Pope, and they see the Bible as the only source of revealed truth.
Yes. Initially, the local doctor at the hospital in the Burpo's hometown of Imperial, Nebraska ruled out appendicitis. After waiting for Colton's condition to improve, his father, Pastor Todd Burpo, recognized the shadow of death on Colton's face. He had seen that look before when visiting the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. With Colton's condition deteriorating and the doctors still puzzled, Todd and his wife Sonja made the decision to take Colton to the Great Plains Regional Medical Center, which was ninety minutes away in North Platte, Nebraska. A CT scan quickly revealed the problem, a burst appendix. It also meant that poisonous discharge had been filling Colton's belly for five days.
No. Like in the movie, Colton's heart never actually stopped beating. The real Todd Burpo stated this during an interview with Megyn Kelly on The Kelly File. "Well, he never flatlined or coded, but talking to the surgeon, he said children that young, they have no warning, vital signs don't fade, they're just there or they're gone. But he never did technically just flatline."
In order to explain how his son visited Heaven without dying, Todd remembered that the Bible discusses several people who had visited Heaven without dying, including John the apostle and a personal acquaintance of the apostle Paul. -Heaven is for Real book
The real Colton Burpo was in the hospital for much longer than the movie implies. Colton began his hospital stays on Monday, March 3, 2003 (first in Imperial, then at the Great Plains Regional Medical Center). Following two surgeries at Great Plains (to clean the poison and infection out of his abdomen) and a bowel complication, he was finally discharged on Wednesday, March 19, 2003 after approximately sixteen days. -Heaven is for Real book
The realization came four months after the surgery. "What really caught our attention first," says Todd Burpo, "was when he could tell us where we were and what we were doing while he was in surgery, because how can anyone make that up. I tried to reason away what he was saying, but the scene where he said he saw me yelling at God and his mom in another room, he nailed all that first. That was the first thing to us." -FoxNewsInsider.com
It was at that point that Colton Burpo's father became aware of what his son was trying to tell them all along. "I remember my son in that room then, looking up at me and he goes, 'Dad, do you know I almost died?' And my first thought was, maybe you overheard the nurse say that, or maybe they thought he was under anesthesia, you know, and he wasn't..." -CBN.com
Yes, the Heaven is for Real true story reveals that, like in the movie, the real Colton Burpo told his dad that he had met and stayed with Pop (his great-grandfather on Todd's mother's side) while he was in Heaven. Pop (pictured below), whose real name was Lawrence Barber, died in July 1976 from a car accident when Todd was around six-years-old. Todd had been close to his grandfather since he had often stayed with his grandparents when his mother attempted to shield him from his own father's bipolar disorder, which sometimes required hospital stays. Pop was only sixty-one years old when he passed away. The photos of Pop that Todd (Greg Kinnear) shows Colton (Connor Corum) in the movie are the real-life photos of Pop (pictured below, right). -Heaven is for Real book
Yes, and like in the movie, he recognized Pop only after Todd showed him a photo from when Pop was younger (pictured above), because as Colton told his father, nobody's old in Heaven and nobody wears glasses. -Heaven is for Real book
Yes. "I was entering through the gates of Heaven," says the real Colton Burpo, "and this little girl came running out at me, and she gave me a hug. Now, when I was younger I wasn't really the hugging type, so I was just sitting here, 'Okay, who are you? Why are you touching me?' And finally she told me who she was, and it was just amazing because she was finally glad someone from her family was up in Heaven." -FoxNewsInsider.com
In a separate interview with CBN, Colton described his miscarried sister in a bit more detail, "She looked like Cassie, but she had brown hair." Cassie is Colton's older sister.
Colton's parents, Todd and Sonja, claim that they never told their son about his miscarried sister, who they lost before Colton was born. Sonja Burpo had miscarried on June 20, 1998 when she was pregnant with her second child. "How do you tell a child that a baby has died inside your tummy?" -FoxNewsInsider.com
No. Like in the movie, Colton's mother, Sonja Burpo, only discovered that the miscarried baby was a girl after Colton told her that he saw his sister in Heaven. At the time of the miscarriage, Sonja was two months along. Colton described his sister in Heaven as looking like his older sister Cassie but with dark hair and a bit smaller. -Heaven is for Real book
Yes. In researching the Heaven is for Real true story, we discovered that Cassie, Colton's older sister, did know about her mother's miscarried baby prior to Colton's ruptured appendix. "We had explained it to Cassie; she was older," Todd Burpo states in the book. "But we hadn't told Colton, judging the topic a bit beyond a four-year-old's capacity to understand." Cassie was approximately six-and-a-half at the time of Colton's near death experience.
No. As evidenced by the book, Colton did not visit the bedside of a dying boy in order to give him comfort. He did accompany his father Todd to a nursing home to visit a dying man named Harold Greer and his family. However, in the movie, this visit takes place before the surgery, not after it like in the book. During the actual visit, Colton approached the man's bedside, much like he does the boy's in the movie, and told the man that everything was going to be okay and that the first person he'll see in Heaven is Jesus. Todd states that it was at that point that he realized that his son had become a messenger.
No. Actress Margo Martindale's character, Nancy Rawling, is fictitious and does not appear in the book. In the movie, the character finds hope through a Colton-inspired vision of her son in Heaven. Pastor Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) provides her comfort by explaining to her that if his son was welcomed into Heaven, then her son had to be in Heaven as well since God loves him just as much. In the book, Todd instead offers this explanation to a woman whose daughter had been stillborn.
Todd Burpo says that they spent three years showing Colton pictures of Jesus, and it wasn't until Colton saw Akiane Kramarik's painting of Jesus, titled Prince of Peace: The Resurrection (pictured below), that Colton said, "This one's right." Akiane Kramarik is an astounding child prodigy who is a self-taught painter. Her work sells for thousands of dollars. She says that her inspiration comes from God and her visits to Heaven. To learn more about Akiane, watch the Akiane Kramarik CNN segment that is highlighted in the movie.
Colton's father, Todd Burpo, says that he asked his son this very question. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Colton responded in his own words. "I knew that I was leaving Heaven because Jesus came to me and said, 'Colton, you need to go back.' Even though I didn't want to go back, he said that he was answering my dad's prayer." Todd says it was the prayer that he made in private at the hospital when he lashed out at God.
The real Colton Burpo supposedly told his father that he was in Heaven for three minutes. After hearing about everything his son had done in Heaven, Todd Burpo knew that such a short amount of time didn't make sense. As in the movie, he turned to the Bible for an answer and recalled that the Bible says that with the Lord, "a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." -Heaven is for Real book
Yes. According to the real Todd Burpo, one such miracle unfolded in the months prior to Colton's trip to Heaven. Todd noticed a lump under the surface of his left nipple. The doctor performed a biopsy and the results came back as hyperplasia, the precursor to breast cancer. A lumpectomy was performed. However, when the removed tissue was tested, it was discovered to be benign, no longer exhibiting hyperplasia. Todd's doctor had no explanation for the sudden reversal.
Many who have read the book have wondered if Colton's story would have been the same if his father was not a pastor and if his family were, for instance, atheists. Those who believe Colton Burpo is telling the truth counter by arguing that it was Colton's strong faith at such a young age that allowed God to let him visit Heaven.
Some critics, including Pastor David Platt, have also pointed out that not only does Colton's story contradict certain elements of scripture, it is another addition to a flourishing genre of books that attempt to purport biographical tales of Heaven and the Afterlife, with the main problem being that many of these descriptions of Heaven often do not correlate with one another. This leads one to ask the question, with numerous biographical stories of Heaven on bookstore shelves, how do we know which ones, if any, are based in truth? These same critics usually conclude by pointing out the high dollar amounts being made from such books by Christian publishers.
Delving into the book as part of our examination into the true story behind the Heaven is for Real movie confirmed that the origin of the book's title dates back to 2009. It was then that the Burpos traveled to Dallas, Texas to meet with the book's editor at a Starbucks. The editor asked Colton what he wanted people to know from his story. Colton's response was, "I want them to know that Heaven is for real."
No. The book Heaven is for Real was co-written by Lynn Vincent, who also worked with Sarah Palin on her best seller Going Rogue.
Colton's father, Pastor Todd Burpo, began preaching about his son's incredible story. Word of the miracle spread and a pastor friend, Phil McCallum, offered to introduce Todd to certain individuals in the publishing world. The Nashville publishing house of Thomas Nelson, which specializes in Christian books and Bibles, eventually bought the rights. -USAToday.com
As of April 2014, the book had sold eight million copies and had spent three years on the New York Times Best Sellers List. With the release of the movie, that sales figure is projected to rise significantly. -FoxNewsInsider.com
During a January 2012 interview with Natalie Tizzel on the Canadian television show 100 Huntley Street, the real Colton Burpo attempted to describe the Armageddon that he claims he got to see a preview of while he was in Heaven. "Well, the battle was with Jesus, the angels, and the good people goin' against Satan, the monsters, and the bad people. They were fighting, and in the end, Jesus does win and the Armageddon would be over, but it has a long time to do. I got to see it happening, and I got to see my dad in the battle. I understood what was going on because, well, I was up there for a while so, you figure out what's goin' on after a while."
"I'm not really scared of death now," says Colton in 2014, "because, first of all, I know what to expect, so I have that going for me. But another thing is, before I die, I wanna be able to share as much as I can, so I can bring as many people with me." -FoxNewsInsider.com
"Well, of my hospital stay and all the events leading up to it, that's a little foggy," says the real Colton Burpo, "but my experience in Heaven is very vivid. I remember just all of the people up in Heaven. There were people, angels, animals, and they had so many things up there that you could do." -FoxNewsInsider.com
Yes. "We can talk about how well Greg Kinnear played me, but how they captured my family, they were spot on," says the real Todd Burpo. "The very first discussions we had were [about me saying] 'you have to protect this story' because at the end of the day my son is 'going to see what you put on a movie screen' and one day he is going to hold me accountable for it. I'm not going to risk that and they said, 'We understand.'"
Burpo continued, "This child actor, Connor, God brought him to this movie. A kid that age can't act, so God had to find a kid that was just like Colton and He did." -ChristianPost.com
|Colton Burpo Describes Heaven and Who He Met There|
A 14-year-old Colton Burpo describes Heaven to interviewer Megyn Kelly. He also talks about meeting his miscarried sister, something his parents claim they had never told him about. Kelly asks the parents how they respond to those who don't believe in an afterlife, who have accused them of putting ideas in their son's head.
|Colton Burpo Home Video and Family Interview|
This segment aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network and features Colton Burpo home movie footage and photos shot before his appendix burst and he found himself on a hospital operating table close to death. Colton's parents, Todd and Sonja Burpo, discuss the ways Colton revealed to them that he had visited Heaven and spoke to Jesus.
|Colton Burpo Armageddon Interview|
Colton Burpo is interviewed by Natalie Tizzel in January 2012 for the Canadian television program 100 Huntley Street. During the interview, Colton describes seeing the coming Armageddon while he was in Heaven. He says that he saw his dad fighting in the battle as one of the "good people" who were going against the "bad people."
|Heaven is for Real vs. the Bible|
David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, discusses Heaven is for Real vs. the Bible. He also offers a list of other bestselling books about supposed trips to Heaven, reminding the audience of the enormous sums of money being made by the publishers. He wonders why so many people have turned to these books instead of the Bible for their own interpretations of Heaven.
|Colton Burpo Sings Amazing Grace in 2012 (age 13)|
The band Read You and Me partners with Colton Burpo for his music video debut in this version of 'Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)'. The video was shot in 2012 when Colton was thirteen.
|Akiane Kramarik CNN Interview - Child Prodigy who Painted Jesus Colton Burpo Recognized|
Glenn Beck narrates this CNN segment on Akiane Kramarik, the self-taught child prodigy whose portrait of Jesus, titled Prince of Peace: The Resurrection, caught Colton Burpo's eye when his father showed it to him. After three years of being shown Jesus pictures, Colton said, "That one's right," upon seeing Akiane's portrait. Akiane says her inspiration comes from God and her visits to Heaven.
|Heaven is for Real Trailer|
Watch the Heaven is for Real movie trailer for the film starring Greg Kinnear as Pastor Todd Burpo. Adapted from the real Burpo's bestselling 2010 book, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, the movie retells the story of his then three-year-old son, Colton, who after a near-death experience began sharing details of his visit to Heaven.