Heaven is for Real movie about Colton Burpo's near death experience to hit US cinemas; dad wants people to know Heaven can be real for them too

A new movie documenting the story of a 4-year-old who had a vision of Heaven is opening in cinemas across the US next week.

'Heaven is for Real' is based on a bestselling book of the same name written by Colton Burpo's father, a church pastor from Nebraska whose own understanding of life after death was challenged by his young son's experience.

Now aged 13, Colton was just 4-years-old when he had his appendix removed in an emergency operation.  While on the operating table, he claims to have met Jesus, seen angels and watched Mary kneel before the throne of God.

He has also spoken of how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" to earth, and noted that God is "really big".

"I remember Jesus, there's streets of gold and a lot of colours. I sat on Jesus' lap and then I just felt safe. God, he is the biggest one in Heaven, he can hold the world in his hands," he told MSNBC.

Colton's claims were only taken seriously, however, when he described meeting his great-grandfather who had died long before he was born, and a miscarried sister whom he had not even known about.

"I was just sitting by the Holy Spirit and this guy comes up and says: 'Are you Todd's son?', so I said yes and he said: 'Well I'm his grandfather'," Colton says, recalling that the man was "very big with huge wings, he had curly hair, big smile and was really nice".

In an interview with the Christian Post, Colton's father Todd Burpo, who is played by Greg Kinnear in the film, said he was forced to rethink his own views on eternity after his son shared what he had seen. "I didn't know what I believed about near death experiences. Where does his vision match reality, scripture and reason? No one had prepared me to talk to someone who had a NDE [Near Death Experience]," he said.

"I come from a church tradition that sometimes undervalues personal experience and says scripture's way more important and I agree with the validity of scripture, but sometimes to a fault where we almost dismiss personal experience.

"But I could not dismiss my son and I had to deal with that."

Colton says that in his vision no one in heaven was old – when he was shown pictures of his grandfather after recovering from his operation, he only recognised ones taken of 'Pop' as a young man. Todd believes this lines up with biblical accounts.

"Adam and Eve were created to never die and once they sinned the punishment for sin was death so they started ageing. We know in Heaven there is no sin, so if you go to a place where there is no sin, why would the consequence of sin be there?" he asks.

"I hope that when people see this film, God speaks to their minds and hearts," Todd added, noting that his son wants to share his story so that other people come to know the love of Jesus and the life waiting for them.

"We're not special. I just pray that they want Christ to be in their lives and realise that Heaven could be a reality for them too," he says.

Heaven Is For Real, produced by Joe Roth and Bishop TD Jakes, opens in theatres on April 16.

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