People Who Had Near-Death Experiences Say There Is a Heaven

Both Don Piper, a Baptist minister, and Colton Burpo, four-year-old son of a Wesleyan minister, visit heaven and return to tell about it. Read on to find out more.

Before I reveal more about the experiences of Don Piper and Colton Burpo, let me first address the subject of near-death experiences and their validity. Then, I will recount the accounts of the Piper and Burpo experiences in Heaven.

  • Validity of Near-Death Experiences
  • Don Piper Near-Death Experience
  • Colton Burpo Near-Death Experience

Validity of Near-Death Experiences

Some question the validity of near-death experiences, saying they are 1) the result of oxygen deprivation, 2) hallucinations caused by emergency room drugs, 3) lack of certain biochemicals during resuscitation, or 4) a psychological defense mechanism for coping during trauma. However James Garlow in his book Heaven and the Afterlife 1 says that researchers have found no correlation between physical factors and near-death experiences. First of all, not everybody revived from death reports a near-death experience. Plus, some accounts can only be explained supernaturally, as the following example will illustrate.

Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland in their book Beyond Death Exploring the Evidence for Immortality 2 tell the story of a woman named Maria. Maria had just arrived in Seattle and was unfamiliar with the locality, when she had a heart attack. As she was rushed to Harborview Hospital, she floated from her body and saw a tennis shoe on the hospital roof ledge, which was around the corner of the building. The shoe was not visible from the ground or from her room. Afterwards when researchers went looking for it, they had difficulty finding it. When the researchers did find the shoe, they confirmed Maria’s description of the shoe: its color, size, material, a worn little toe, and the position of the lace, which was located under the heel. Maria’s description of the shoe could not be attributable to oxygen or chemical deprivation or to hallucinations.

Don Piper Near-Death Experience

On his way home from a church conference Don Piper, a Baptist minister, was “killed” at 11:45 AM January 18, 1989 after an 18 wheeler ran head-on into his Ford Escort on Texas Highway 19 as he crossed a bridge over the Trinity River, about 90 miles north of Houston. Four sets of paramedics soon reached the scene, did not find a pulse and declared that he died on impact. They were unable to extract him from his crushed vehicle and covered it with a tarp.

Piper did not travel through a tunnel or feel himself leaving his body. A brilliant light enveloped him, and he was standing in Heaven. He said that “Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant ornate gate.”3

He saw a crowd of people rush toward him, people he had known and had died during his lifetime. Every person was smiling and praising God, and he was aware that they were his welcoming committee assembled outside Heaven’s Gate waiting for him. He recognized his grandfather and Barry Wilson, a classmate in high school, who had drowned in a lake. He recognized two teachers who had often talked about Jesus Christ to him. He realized that all the people had contributed to his becoming a Christian and had spiritually impacted him in some way.

Piper says, “I had never felt such powerful embraces or feasted my eyes on such beauty. Heaven’s light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen.”4

They began moving toward the gate and an intense light. Piper says, “I expected to see some darkness behind the gate but as far ahead as I could see, there was absolutely nothing but intense, radiant light”5 Each step increased the intensity of the light, but it wasn’t blinding and could be viewed with ease.” Each step he took he had the sense that he was being ushered into the presence of God.

Piper says, “I was home; I was where I belonged. I wanted to be there more than I had ever wanted to be anywhere on earth. Time had slipped away, and I was simply present in Heaven. All worries, anxieties, and concerns vanished. I had no needs, and I felt perfect.”6

After about an hour, another Baptist preacher, Dick Onerecker, whom Don had met at the conference, saw the wreckage, stopped and asked if he could pray for anybody. The police officer said that the man in the red car was dead. However, Dick felt that God instructed him to pray for the dead victim. Over the officer’s objection, Dick crawled into the wrecked car and began to pray. He prayed for 20-30 minutes, and God brought Don back to the living. Since the release of his bestselling book, 90 Minutes in Heaven – a True Story of Death and Life, Don has traveled across the country and around the world sharing his amazing story. His message is simple … We can have a better life now and an eternal life someday through faith in Jesus Christ!

Colton Burpo Near-Death Experience

On March 3, 2003, four-year-old Colton Burpo had emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix and an abscess. The appendix ruptured 3 days earlier but was misdiagnosed. After seemingly to recover, Colton had to undergo a second surgery on March 13 to drain three abscesses. Colton’s condition deteriorated, and on March 17 the medical staff informed the parents, Todd and Sonja, that nothing more could be done, implying they should prepare for Colton’s imminent death. Todd, who is a pastor at Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial Nebraska, asked for concentrated church prayer for Colton. The next morning, on March 18, Colton showed amazing signs of recovery, and on March 19, Colton returned home.

That in itself, was remarkable, but the account to follow is even more remarkable. About three months later, Colton began to tell his account of visiting Heaven. He described where his parents were during his operation, “I went up out of my body and I was looking down and I could see the doctor working on my body. And I saw you and Mommy. You were in a little room by yourself, praying, and Mommy was in a different room, and she was praying and talking on the phone.”7

Colton said he met Jesus and “his cousin” (John the Baptist).8 He said “he [Jesus] has brown hair and he has hair on his face,” not knowing the word for “beard.”9  He described the “markers” Jesus had in the middle of His hands and feet, referring to the nail marks. Colton’s father, Todd, said that no one had previously described the crucifixion to Colton because of his tender age. Weeks later, Colton described meeting Todd’s grandfather, Pop, confirming that Todd was very close to Pop.

However, Colton revealed the most remarkable account weeks later. He informed his mother, Sonja, that he had two sisters. Confused, Sonja, thought that he was referring to his older sister Cassie and a cousin. Colton was adamant, “No. I have two sisters,” he said. “You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” Sonja, asked, “Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?”10   “She did, Mommy,” Colton replied. “She said she died in your tummy.”

A year before Colton was born, Sonja miscarried her two-month-old baby. They had never told Colton and did not even know that the baby was a girl. Colton told his mother, “She looked a lot like Cassie. She is just a little bit smaller, and she had dark hair.” He continued, “In heaven, this little girl ran up to me, and she wouldn’t stop hugging me.”11  He also said she didn’t have a name, confirming that neither Todd or Sonja had named her.

Colton’s account to his mother provided her with healing for a heart seared with grief. His account and Don Piper’s account can confirm to us the Biblical reality of Heaven.  In the book about Colton’s journey, Heaven is for Real, Colton also reveals that the way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ. 

To Read More

James L. Garlow and Keith Wall, Heaven and the Afterlife (Minneapolis-Bethany House Publishers, 2009)

G. R. Habermas and J. P Moreland, Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality (Wheaton-Crossway Books, 1998)

Don Piper and Cecil Murphey, 90 Minutes in Heaven, A True Story of Death and Life (Grand Rapids-Revel, 2004)

Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville-Thomas Nelson, 2010)


  1. James L. Garlow and Keith Wall, Heaven and the Afterlife (Minneapolis-Bethany House Publishers, 2009)
  2. G. R. Habermas and J. P Moreland, Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality (Wheaton-Crossway Books, 1998)
  3. Don Piper and Cecil Murphey, 90 Minutes in Heaven, A True Story of Death and Life (Grand Rapids-Revel, 2004), 21-22.
  4. Ibid, 25.
  5. Ibid, 28.
  6. Ibid, 33.
  7. Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville-Thomas Nelson, 2010), 61
  8. Ibid, 63.
  9. Ibid, 65.
  10. Ibid, 94.
  11. Ibid, 96.

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