Colton Burpo, the subject of bestselling book and hit movie Heaven is for Real, has defended his story just days after Alex Malarkey revealed that his own near-death experience was fake.
Burpo, who claims to have met Jesus when he had his appendix removed in an emergency operation aged 4, says he visited heaven, saw angels and watched Mary kneel before the throne of God. In a new statement on his website, he writes: "Dear friends, I know there has been a lot of talk about the truth of other Heaven stories in the past few days. I just wanted to take a second and let everyone know that I stand by my story found in my book Heaven is for Real.
"I still remember my experience in Heaven. I want to keep telling people about my experience because it has given hope to so many people.
"People have their doubts about my story," Burpo continues, "But the thing is, I wasn't coaxed into doing this. I wanted to tell people about my experience. In fact, I started sharing my story with my friends and people in our town way before there was a book called Heaven is for Real.
"I hope that my story continues to point people to Jesus. He really, really loves you."
Earlier this week, Alex Malarkey - who co-wrote a book with his father, Kevin, about his experiences in heaven after a car accident in 2004 when he was just six-years-old - retracted his story.
Alex was left quadriplegic by the accident, and now says he made the story up to get attention.
He wrote an open letter to booksellers in which he also took aim at other accounts of "heaven tourism", a genre that includes Burpo's Heaven is for Real.
Addressed to "Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven", the letter reads: "Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
"I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
"I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
"It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible ... not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough."
Heaven is for Real was produced as a movie by Joe Roth and Bishop TD Jakes last year. It made over $100million in the Box Office.