Book notes: Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo book summary review and key ideas.

Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo, Lynn Vincent


“When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren’t expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed – a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back.

Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery – and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on. He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born. He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read.

With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much God loves us. Retold by his father, but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, Heaven Is for Real offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where, as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”

Heaven Is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see and believe like a child.

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Opening thoughts:

I think I’ve heard of this movie a long time ago. I didn’t know it was based off of a book. I think this was brought up from a recent sermon I heard at church. The last two sermons I’ve been to were really thought-provoking and inspiring. Therefore, I thought I might finally pick up a book that pertains to my faith this month.

Key notes:

  • Sometimes, laughter is the only way to process tough times
  • Their 4 year old Colton recalls when he was in the hospital very matter-of-factly that angels sung to him when he was scared and Jesus was there
    • Colton gave perfect accounts of what was going on while he was being operated on like seeing what his parents were doing while having an out of body experience
  • It turns out it had been a ruptured appendix which the first set of doctors ruled out initially
    • However, now things weren’t looking good and his fate was hanging by a thread
    • He mentioned how in scripture God answers not of the sick and dying but of the friends of the sick or dying
  • The power of prayer from his church helped heal Colton initially
    • Afterwards they had a lot of financial troubles but soon they started receiving a bunch of gifts from people who wanted to help them financially
  • Colton was giving incredible detail and accuracy of what Jesus looked like from scripture despite his dad knowing exactly what he should’ve learned at church and the stories he read Colton himself 
    • Colton also mentioned how Jesus had crucifixion scars on his palms and feet
    • This is something his dad knew he didn’t learn at church
    • Also was the fact that he answered so quickly and matter-of-factly just as a witness would have, not as a person thinking about the right answer
  • Jesus said that whoever humbles themselves as a child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
  • The humility of a child is the lack of guile and the lack of an agenda
    • Before we have accumulated enough pride or position to care what other people might think
    • The same unselfconscious honesty of a child 
  • It is the opposite of ignorance, it is intellectual honesty
    • To be willing to except reality and to call things what they are even when it is hard
  • Colton said that Jesus brought him back because he was answering his dad’s prayer

Reader’s note: Oh deng, this is intense. Definitely crying right now. God had given back Todd’s son despite him being so angry at God. Jesus’s love and grace is so good and amazing.

  • He told the congregation that he learned after God answering his angry prayer that he could be real with God
    • He didn’t have to be fake or churchy in order to be heard in heaven
    • You might as well tell God what you think because he knows it anyway
    • Most importantly, he learned that he is heard, we all are
  • Colton mentioned that in heaven, he stayed with his great grandpa who is really nice
  • Colton said Jesus told him that he was happy when his dad accepted his request to become a pastor
  • Colton told his parents that his second sister who died as a stillborn is fine in heaven and was adopted by God, “Jesus’s dad”
  • The wound from losing their second child began to heal
    • His mom was so overjoyed that their baby girl was OK and waiting for them in heaven
    • They didn’t even know she was a girl with dark hair until Colton told them
  • Colton said that God was really really big and in the same breath he says that he really really loves us
    • And that next to his throne Jesus sits to the right of God
  • Per Colton, the angel Gabriel sits to the left of God
  • Colton didn’t fall for his dad’s trick and corrected him saying that it never gets dark in heaven because God and Jesus light it up
  • Colton kept incessantly reminding them that Jesus really loves the children
    • The message was clear that adults should spend more time loving children as well
  • Colton’s description of why Jesus died on the cross was the sweetest and simplest declaration of the gospel he’s ever heard
    • Jesus died so that people could see his dad (God)
  • Colton mentioned that nobody is old in heaven and nobody wears glasses
    • When he met his great grandfather Pop, he was a younger version than Colton’s dad remembered
  • They learned about how people will look like in heaven
    • Bad news is they’ll still look like themselves
    • Good news is it’ll be the younger version, like how Colton’s great grandpa look as he did in his prime (mid-late twenties)
  • Colton says that God shoots down Holy Spirit power to his dad when he preaches the sermon
    • Todd mentioned how he always prays for a good message before every sermon
  • Colton said that the angels carry swords to keep Satan out of heaven because he isn’t in hell yet
  • Colton said that Akiane’s painting of Jesus was accurate
  • It’s okay to struggle
    • The very nature of faith is to believe and yet not have all the answers

Main ideas / Themes:

  • Laughter can sometimes help process tough times
  • God answers the friends of the sick and dying
  • Whoever humbles themselves as a child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
  • Intellectual honesty is to be willing to except reality and to call things what they are even when it is hard
  • You can be real with God and tell him what you think
  • Children who die are adopted by God in heaven
  • God is really big and loves us a LOT
  • Jesus really loves children and we should do the same
  • Jesus died so we could see his dad
  • Everybody is young / in their prime in heaven
  • God will give you strength via the Holy Spirit
  • Akiane’s painting of Jesus is accurate
  • The nature of faith is to believe even without all the answers

Closing thoughts:

I personally LOVED this book. For me as a Christian, this really spoke to and strengthened my own faith. Part of me was thinking “hey, so it’s all true, with Jesus and God and heaven” which really alleviated a lot of fears and anxieties I’ve been having. However, I realized that even to believe this story, no matter how factual it may seem, still requires faith.

Just to be open about my own faith a bit in this public setting, but I believe that God meant for me to read this book at this particular time. It was exactly what I needed to hear and what I needed to read at this point in my life.

Immediately after I finished this book, a lot for me changed. My mindset changed so much because of my newfound and strengthened faith. The relationships around me had a different energy to them. The sermons I listened to in church was being received in a different way. It almost felt like I was born again or baptized.

I even started serving more in church, volunteering to greet and usher during service. And because of the line about Jesus loving children, I feel called to serve with student ministry, either Junior High or High School students. We’ll see how it goes, but I have this book to thank for this turning point in my life.

Honestly, I know the reader’s background and faith will have a lot to do with how they receive it. This was just my experience coming from my context. But regardless, I think it’s a really good book and an incredible story to think about.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

As I alluded to, my main takeaway I plan to put into practice is:

  • Find ways to love and serve children in service to God

For me, I’m lucky to have a church community that has such accessible opportunities to serve in this way. I’ve already signed up so I’m just waiting to be contact by the Student Ministries Coordinator.


4-year old Colton Burpo shares his experience going to heaven and meeting Jesus.


5/5 – My objectively biased opinion, lol. Mostly based on how it has affected me personally and the value it has given my life.

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