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US Bestseller: Heaven Exists, War against Satan will “Destroy this World”

As is being widely reported, one of the USA’s top-selling titles at the moment a book called Heaven is for Real, which purports to describe how a 4-year-old boy named Colton Burpo had a near-death experience in hospital in 2003, thus proving Christianity:

While in heaven Colton says he saw many things and met many people including pop, his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. But Colton says he didn’t look like the photo in his house. A picture sent months later by his grandma was more like the man he met, a young man without glasses. And perhaps the most shocking part of Colton’s story. “He came to his mom and said mom I have 2 sisters,” said [has father] Todd Burpo.

But he only has one sister. “You had a baby die in your tummy didn’t you?” said Todd Burpo.

His parents never told him about the miscarriage.

Over time this young man’s visions became more real. From his description of Jesus to his talks with God, even a description of Armageddon.

“Over time” may be the operative phrase here: Colton’s father is a pastor, and the details of his son’s vision emerged through their conversations. The tale has now been further packaged by Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter. A December 2010 piece in the Imperial Republican, the Coltons’ local newspaper, has some background (link added):

In an interview this week, Todd Burpo said he has no doubt his son made the heavenly visit.

While Todd, pastor of Imperial’s Crossroads Wesleyan Church, says he and wife Sonja originally weren’t sure about it, he is now.

“I am 100% convinced he was in heaven,” he said.

…He believes God had a part in the encouragement they had from a pastor friend to write the book. That friend, Phil McCallum, made some introductions and introduced them to the right people, Todd said.

It eventually led to the book deal with Thomas Nelson of Nashville, a 200-year-old company that publishes a lot of Christian books.

He worked with author Lynn Vincent, who most recently collaborated with Sarah Palin on her book, “Going Rogue: An American Life.”

Various sites have discussed the book’s content; one Reformed pastor, while not dismissing the entire book, writes that:

In Burpo’s book, I’m especially skeptical as I read the chapter on “The Throne Room of God.” Jesus’ Dad sits in a big chair, with Jesus on his right and the angel Gabriel on his left.  The Holy Spirit is a blue light in the throne room, and they brought in a little chair for Colton to sit in.  I’m kind of wondering where were the other millions of believers in heaven besides Colton, Pop, and his unborn sister.

However, it’s the apocalyptic message which particularly interests me. In a chapter called “The Coming War”, Todd tells us that he’s “not one of those pastors who camps out on end-times prophecy”, but according to his son:

“there’s going to be a war, and it’s going to destroy this world. Jesus and the angels and the good people are going to fight against  Satan and the monsters and the bad people. I saw it.”

…”in heaven, the women and the children got to stand back and watch… But the men, they had to fight. And Dad. I watched you. You have to fight too.

Todd will apparently fight with “a sword or a bow and arrow”. Pondering the Book of Revelation, Todd opines that “maybe we sophisticated grown-ups have tried to make things more complicated than they are” in looking for a symbolic interpretation. Clunkily literalistic readings of the text are in fashion right now: recently there was speculation that the book’s “pale rider” had been caught on camera in Egypt.

This isn’t the first popular book to claim that special revelations given to children offer evidence for Christianity: in the 1920s a Pentecostal missionary working in China named HA Baker claimed that children in a orphanage in Yunnan had experienced a series of visions following an “outpouring of the Holy Spirit”.