The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven The Story Behind the Story


Hank Hanegraaff

Article ID:



Jul 31, 2022


Apr 23, 2014


To read Hank’s related article: Heaven Is Real, but Heaven Is for Real Is Really Not, please click here.

To read Hank’s related article: Heaven Is Real, please click here.

New York Times Bestselling Book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World—The Story Behind the Story

by Hank Hanegraaff

Backstory. Subsequent to three-year-old Colton Burpo’s return from heaven, six-year-old Alex Malarkey traveled there as well. As such, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven (Tyndale, 2010) purports to be the true story of Alex’s direct experience with angels, demons, and, yes, the devil himself. Along the way he is alleged to have encountered “one hundred and fifty pure, white angels with fantastic wings, green demons with long fingernails and hair made of fire, and an earless devil, replete with three heads, a nasty nose, and moldy teeth.”

Like Colton, Alex was allegedly permitted to see God.  But in sharp distinction, he was not permitted to see God’s face. As Alex is alleged to have written, “I was in the presence of God. He had a body that was like a human body, but it was a lot bigger. I could only see up to His neck because, like the Bible says, nobody is allowed to see God’s face or that person will die.”

Story behind the story. According to Alex’s mother—his precious care-taker—these words are not the words of Alex at all. As she put it in a Facebook message to me, “Hank, my son is being exploited…My son has tried to speak (as best he could) on the wrongs of this book but he has been silenced.”

After surviving a horrific car accident, being in a coma for two months, and to this day continuing to struggle with the after effects of brain trauma, Alex cares more deeply about truth than he cares about himself. Even though the most expedient thing to do is to promote the published story, Alex and his mother are deeply committed to communicate truth instead. Here is in part what she wrote in her letter to me:

Dear Hank,
My name is Beth Malarkey. I am the mom of Alex Malarkey who is the subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. I wanted to let you know that I agree, as does Alex himself, that the book is deceptive and biblically wrong…Thank you for standing for and teaching truth!

Says Beth, “These heaven books are dangerous and destructive!”

In addition, on Easter Sunday, Beth wrote a blog post titled, “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven…not quite.” Here’s what she says in part:

I am not a medical professional. The letters after my name are M.O.M.  My lessons have been learned on the road of life.
This past week a movie based off the book Heaven Is for Real came out…and [I] am strongly opposed to the movie. Let’s just say that the Burpo book and the book that has Alex’s name listed as coauthor (The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven)…have a few things in common.
It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book, The Boy who Came Back from Heaven, not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned…. (a few strategically placed Scriptures do not make a book biblically sound).
…When Alex first tried to tell a “pastor” how wrong the book was and how it needed [to be] stopped, Alex was told that the book was blessing people.
…Alex is the ONLY one who has endured not only a horrific set of injuries, but [has endured] having his journey capitalized on. His struggles are NOT past tense nor is the “story.” The ones making money from the book are NOT the ones staying up through the night, struggling for their breath, nor were they the ones at six years old, waking up unable to move or breathe….What I have walked through with Alex over the past nine years has nearly broken me personally and spiritually. I have wept so deeply for what I have watched my children go through, been made aware of how…biblically illiterate I was, which allowed me to be deceived! Sure, I had read my Bible A LOT, but I had not studied it. I had listened to teachings but probably enjoyed more ear tickling than I am still even aware of (for that I repent and have experienced deep sorrow). I am so thankful that God is so merciful and patient. I am thankful that God allowed me to go ahead and fall for the junk that I did (and it was that junk) for I am fully aware of what it feels like to be pulled in. There are many who are scamming and using the Word of God to do it. They are good, especially if you are not digging into your Bible and truly studying it.
….Alex did not write the book and it is not blessing him! Saying that it is blessing others …is…justification of wrong!
…Alex’s name and identity are being used against his wishes…Alex has tried to publically speak out against the book… he is opposed to [it] and knows [it] to be in error according to the Bible. How can this be going on? …How did it get this far?

I have spoken to Beth and Alex at length and believe with all my heart that the real story is not selling and sensationalism respecting heaven—but faith forged in the fires of adversity! And that story as yet has not been told.

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