Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
To Heaven and back. Yesterday, I posted my conversation with Todd Burpo, the Nebraska pastor whose book Heaven is for Real chronicling his son Colton’s apparent visit to Heaven during a near-death experience when he was only four has become the subject of a new movie from Randall Wallace (Braveheart, Secretariat) opening in theaters tomorrow (4/16).
Now, ten years later on the eve of the film’s premiere, Colton is fourteen years old and talks about what it’s like to see his experience portrayed on film.
JWK: It must be incredible for you to see your story on the screen. How close has the movie come to showing what you actually saw?
COLTON BURPO: It is difficult to depict something that you’ve never seen or experienced before, so the Heaven scene, I think is good but is just not what I experienced.
JWK: How was it different?
CB: It’s hard to describe how it was different because you never feel the same way that you do when you’re down here on Earth and some of the things you can’t experience down here on Earth.
JWK: To the best that words can allow, what was the experience like?
CB: It was very fun (and) awesome…Mainly, I got to do a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t be able to do here. I got to play with lions. I got to fly.
JWK: So, how real does that experience seem to you after all these years? Do you still feel it? Is it still fresh in your memory?
CB: My Heaven experience, yes, I remember that very vividly and it is very fresh. Now, some memories have faded from that — like I used to be able to name names of kids that I played with in Heaven but now I can’t. So, a lot of things still stick out to me. Some things have faded but it’s still very clear.
JWK: What has your experience given you that you’d like to share with others?
CB: Well, one thing that I enjoy sharing is that God really does love you. He wants you in Heaven. The problem is we’re too attached to some things on this world that aren’t okay for Heaven. But when we love Jesus, it’s a true, pure love. When we love Jesus then we can let go of those things and we are able to experience and enjoy Heaven.
JWK: From your experience, how do the things we argue about here on Earth — including religion — appear from the point of view of Heaven — and of God?
CB: Heaven is just such an amazing place to begin with. There’s no sin there. That’s the big divider between Heaven and Earth. Since there’s no sin there, everybody doesn’t have to argue all the time. Everybody doesn’t have to cram their belief down someone else’s throat. Everybody’s out there and they enjoy just being around each other.
JWK: How is sin defined in Heaven?
CB: Sin causes a lot of problems. It cause most of the world’s problems — like jealousy. A country is jealous of another country so they invade it and (kill) innocent people. Guilt. Feeling guilty for something wrong that you did when you (should) know “I’m forgiven of that.” Just getting into a simple car crash, you still feel guilt. Just a bunch of other stuff (that) really ruin your mood or just ruin people’s lives.
JWK: Going forward, do you plan to follow in your father’s footsteps as a minister?
CB: I do feel that God does wants me to continue sharing the story…I’m probably going to keep continuing what I’m doing in this world with Heaven is for Real Ministries. What we do is we go around and we have a live band travel with us. We go around and we do an event. The band plays…There may be a little message in there as well. At those events is where we can touch people’s live because we even get to talk to them afterwards and (for) a lot of people, it just really helps them.
JWK: You’re father tells me you have musical talent of your own.
CB: Yes. I do sing.
JWK: Do you sing at these events?
CB: Yes. I sing the Heaven song, as well. That song was written by the leader of the Read You and Me band that travels with us. He wrote it mainly out of the words from our kids book Heaven is for Real for Kids.
JWK: You have siblings.
CB: I have an older sister and a younger brother.
JWK: How do they — and the kids you know at school — feel about all this?
CB: Well, there have been a few jokes at my expense but, otherwise, they’ve been hearing this story since I was young, since my friends were young, since Cassidy (my sister) was young, since Colby (my brother) was young. This story has been around for a very long time so everybody in our town if they don’t believe in (my story) they can’t deny that (my recovery) was a miracle.
JWK: What did Heaven look like?
CB: What I saw in Heaven was people, angels, animals, trees, water.
JWK: Were you able to see God?
CB: Yes, I able to see God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit — and the archangels, Michael and Gabriel. I was also able to see King David, Samson, Mary the mother of Jesus and the apostles Peter and John. So, there are a bunch of people up there.
JWK: And, I understand, you were able to see your own deceased relatives.
CB: I was. I saw my grandpa pop and my sister (who died in a miscarriage).
JWK: It seems like you saw, basically, all of time laid out before you?
CB: God operates outside of time…I was able to see my dad’s past, I was able to see the future, I was able to see Satan being thrown out of Heaven.
JWK: You saw the future?
CB: Well, I was able to see the battle of Armageddon. I was able to see part of it. Now, the women and the children have to stand on the side but Jesus, the angels and the good people fight Satan, the monsters and the bad people.
JWK: Do you have any idea when this happens?
CB: I honestly couldn’t tell you. All I know is I saw my dad fighting in there.
JWK: So, good overcomes evil. All in all, you’re experience seems to have made you happy and hopeful about the future.
CB: Yes — and also, because of my experience, I enjoy helping people prevail (against their) hurts because, being able to see someone overcome something that’s been keeping them down for thirty years, it’s really nice to see that.
JWK: What do you hope people take from this movie?
CB: That God really does love you. He wants you to go to Heaven.
Note: For more information about Heaven is for Real Ministries click here.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11