Call Someone a Fool and Go to Hell?

Jason was one of my best friends in Junior High and High School. He and I played a lot of tennis, listened to a lot of rap, and played a lot of Nintendo. I still remember when we beat Mega Man 2 in one day.

In our Sophomore year of High School, one of his favorite sayings was, “You Fool!” When Mega Man died, he would shout at the TV, “You fool!” When I aced him in tennis (he was better than me so it rarely happened), he would shout across the net, “You fool!” When we were learning to drive and someone cut him off in traffic, he would shout at them, “You fool!” He said it in jest (most of the time), and it became his signature saying.

Until one day our Sunday School teacher at church read Matthew 5:21-22. The last part really got Jason’s attention: “Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” When our teacher read that, everyone laughed and looked right at Jason as he squirmed in his seat and looked abashedly at the floor.

After that, I never heard him say, “You fool” again.

What did Jesus really say?
In my “core group” today, we read and discussed this passage. Not surprisingly, they were shocked at what Jesus said. How can he say that simply for calling someone a fool, they will go to hell? That’s impossible! Too difficult! Jesus is crazy!

We had a long, spirited discussion about this, and some of them remembered what we discussed last week. In the end, I had to bring in some Greek and Jewish background information (I have a love-hate relationship with doing this, which maybe I will write about someday).

I personally don’t think this passage (or the next one about adultery) has anything whatsoever to do with burning forever and ever in a lake of fire while Satan and his minions poke you with pitchforks to see if you’re done yet (“Nope? Note done yet. Put him back on the flames for another million years! Bwah-ha-ha-ha-hahahahaaa!”). Jason will be pleased to hear this.

The word that Jesus uses in 5:22, 29, 30 is gehenna. It refers to the Valley of Gehinnom outside of the city of Jerusalem which, in the days of Jesus, was the garbage dump. People dumped all their refuse and waste out there. It was probably full of rats. Lepers might have scrounged through there. And every once in a while, to try to remove some of the stench, someone would light it on fire, and it would burn and smolder with acrid smoke for months on end. It was a wasteland, a garbage heap, a pile of burning filth.

Jesus is saying that when you call someone a fool, when you look lustfully at women, it destroys your life. While such actions, if they are followed to their logical end, may lead to murder and adultery, by the time you get there, you will have done so much other damage to your life, your friends, your relationship, your spouse, your job, your children, your health, your finances, and everything else in life, that you life will basically be a gehenna. A burning wasteland of filth. Or, to quote one of the other guys from today, a $#!+hole.

Don’t put your life in the dump
We all know it’s true. What happens in your marriage when you call your spouse a fool? Or how does your boss like it? How about your children? Your friends? That’s right. Life goes down the toilet real fast.

You treat people like they are only objects to be used, stepped on, objectified, abused, slandered, cheated, lied to, and then discarded, and eventually, you look around, and find that you are the one who has been discarded. You are the one in the wasteland. You are the one in gehenna. You are in a living hell.

So I know some are going to disagree with me on this. That’s okay. But if you think Jesus is really talking about a literal torment in flames for all eternity for calling someone a fool, just be careful what you say when you disagree.

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  1. Kirk says

    haha i love the Mr. T pic. I always wandered what that verse really meant and I think your explanation is a lot better than the other alternatives I’ve heard

    • says

      Thanks for the link. I went and read it. You are asking some great questions. I asked it over there, but I’ll ask it here too. Are there any books or resources you recommend for studying this further?

  2. says


    I think your explination does a fine job of describing the consequences of sin in regards to our horizontal relationships but falls short of dealing with the vertical consequences. Ultimately these words violate the Trinitarian-like community, harmony and love that each and every one of us who are made in that image should share. So, it is both an offense that has consequences in our earthly relationships and our heavenly relationsgip. In short, in the words of David when he went into Bathsheeba and murdered her husband, against God and God alone have we sinned.

    So I ask: how would you interpret Jesus’ remarks in regard to our Godward offenses? Is your picture of a garbage heap adequate to deal with offenses against His holiness?

    • says

      Good question.

      I do, of course, believe James 2:10, that any offense, no matter how small, makes us fully guilty before God. Based on the words of Jesus, I think that hatefully calling someone a fool, an idiot, or whatever, falls into this category. Jesus is saying it is not just the outward actions that God cares about, but the inner motivations and attitudes of the heart and mind.

      This is one reason nobody can ever “be good enough” to get eternal life, because nearly everything we do is tainted by sin in some way.

      Anyway, I’m not sure that was your question.

      Regarding the eternal state of people who do not believe in Jesus for eternal life, I do think there is some sort of eternal separation from God, though I am not sure Scripture says much about it. It does, it seems have something to do with a place called “The lake of fire” which was created for the devil and his angels, but we need to be real careful about reading into this some sort of torture chamber for the wicked.

      I am still doing a lot of thinking, reading, research on this topic. My current position in summary fashion is that those who do not have the righteousness of Christ by faith do exist for eternity in a state of separation from God, but I do not think this involves the physical torment of burning for all eternity. The spiritual separation from God might actually be worse than that…

      But, as I said, I am still studying what the Scriptures say on all of this…

      What do you think?

  3. says

    I’m still studying, too. You echo my sentiments when you said speraration from God for eternity would be worse. Being forever apart from Christ and from all things good which he gives would be torment enough…or would it? I don’t know, I’m not a very good judge on what would be an adequate punishment for the one who dishonors God in his holiness. My understanding of God’s holiness, while it is ever expanding, is like a speck of salt in the sea but one day we will see him for who he is and in that day our questions about who goes where and why will surely be understood fully.

  4. says

    Hell is a reality in this life, not the one to come. And this is just what Jesus was warning about. There is also a final judgment when we go to heaven. For both reasons, we should live the way Jesus taught us – it’s just better for us.

    Nonetheless, everyone is going to heaven so there is no reason to convince everyone to go to church. There is value, however, in talking about Jesus for indeed the way He tells us to live is the way He Himself lives. God is love.

  5. Danny says

    Jeremy, did you get the links to the videos and papers defending the eventual salvation of all that I sent you? If you haven’t, I would suggest you begin studying it. Eternal separation from Christ might be a more sanitized version of the medieval view of hell, but it is still out-of-touch with the reality of 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, Colossians 1:15-20, Romans 5:12-19, 1 TImothy 2:4-6 and 4:9-11, 1 John 2:2 and 4:14, and many other passages. I’m aware of all the ways these passages are explained away by adherents of ET – I used to defend such views and they all fail in my opinion, no matter how logical they may seem. I even came up with some of my own counters to universalism (two examples: restricting “all men” in Romans 5:12 to all believing men to conform to one ET understanding of 5:18, and restricting “in Adam all die” in 1 Cor 15:22 to believing men as well). And you know something? I’m not playing games with these texts any more. The natural reading of these passages is that all men will eventually be saved (each in his own order – 1 Cor 15:22-28). No more theological gymnastics.

    God didn’t create this world just to put 90% of it or more into either endless torment or “eternal separation.” The Lake of Fire is the second death, and eventually all death will be destroyed, so that God may be all-in-all. In many of your posts, you’ve addressed how churchianity has kept unbelievers from Christ. And I agree with you on many points. However, you need to consider that your doctrine of “eternal separation” likewise keeps people away from Christ. Go look at the Greek behind “forever and ever” – it’s supposed to be ages of the ages (aionas ton aionon), and that’s not an idiom. But what about God being the eternal God? What about eternal life? What about Jesus ruling “forever and ever” in Revelation? (hint: read 1 Cor 15:24-28 without bringing your preconceived notion of The Father ending Jesus’ mediatorial reign and inaugurating his kingly reign). What about the Father being glorified “forever and ever.” Exodus 15:18 answers that, especially the Septuagint version – The Lord is ruling into the age, upon the ages and BEYOND. God is immortal, the whole world will eventually be made immortal. God gets glory for the ages of ages, and when those ages are over, He still gets glory. Yes, his glory is truly without end, we live without end, but it’s not the word aionios that conveys this.

    • says

      Hmm. No, I didn’t get those links to the videos and papers. Did you send them jmyers AT

      I checked my email last night, and didn’t see them there. I will check again tonight, or you can just send them again.


  6. Danny says

    In summary then:

    The Father rules for the ages of the ages (and beyond those ages, without end)

    The Son rules for the ages of the ages with His saints (Revelation) and eventually hands over (gives up – look at all the instances of “paradidomi” throughout the NT) the Kingdom to the Father in 1 Cor 15:24 . Also notice that Jesus’ reign reaches an “until” in v. 25. Even if we can distinguish between Christ’s reign as mediator and His reign as king, the most natural reading and logical conclusion is that v. 24 and v. 28 are dealing with the end of His kingly reign. He gives up the Kingdom to the Father and is Himself made subject to the Father (though many argue that Jesus is already subject to the Father, clearly this text is taking us to another level of subjection).

    In Adam all die, in Christ all are made alive (Three orders in 1 Cor 15:22-24)

    1. Christ the Firstfruit (made alive 2,000 years ago)

    2. Afterward those who are His at His Coming (believers). Most stop here and say there are only two orders, Christ, who was already made alive, and then believers. Is that it? This is Paul’s meaning of “but each in his own order?” Christ is made alive in Himself (which happened already) and then believers in the future and that’s the end of that? Nope – verse 24 contnues with an obvious reference to the third order.

    3.Thereafter comes the end, when He delivers up the Kingdom to the Father (Paul jets beyond Revelation 22) after destroying the only remaining death – logically the second death. Then He is truly God all-in-all.

    Believers are made alive at His coming, and experience the swalling up of death in victory before everyone else, as vs. 50 – 57 make clear. Many like to point out that vs. 50 – 57 only deal with believers (true), and that therefore vs. 24-28 likewise deals only with believers (false). At Jesus’ return, believers are made alive and start reigning with Him. Death is swallowed up in victory for believers. At the end of Jesus’ reign (and ours as well), Jesus gives up the Kingdom to the Father. Notice that death isn’t completely defeated until Jesus gives up the Kingdom after the ages of ages are over. During the period of a New Heaven and New Earth, unbelievers are still in the second death. 1 Cor 15:22 makes it clear that they too will be made alive. Some believe that 1 Cor 15:22 refers to the resurrection of both believers and unbelievers – believers to life and unbelievers to a never-ending hell. The context argues against that. Don’t bring in the twisted idea that death is destroyed in that unbelievers remain alive and tormented consciously. I partucularly like A.E. Knoch’s insight on the order of being made alive in Christ:

    (BEGIN QUOTE) Having accepted the great truth that all shall be made alive, the next question is, when? The answer is, Not all at once, but in classes. Vivification is progressive. Christ is the first class. The second is those who are Christ’s at His presence. The third is at the consummation. This is clearly indicated by the expressions of time: “the Firstfruit, Christ; thereupon those who are Christ’s at His presence; thereafter the consummation, whenever He may give up the kingdom…Who will be included in the last class? It is a simple matter of subtraction. Indeed I have not even ventured to do the subtracting. The difference between “all” and those enumerated cannot be otherwise than “the balance.”

    Now let us suppose that only “all in Christ” are included. How shall we understand “Yet each in his own class?” Could anyone suppose that those that are Christ’s would be vivified when He was, in the past? Why, then, bring in these “Classes?” And why, after “those who are Christ’s” have been vivified, speak of “thereafter the consummation?” What comes after the saints have been made alive? The record reads that this coincides with the abolition of death. Hence there is no reasonable alternative except “the balance of mankind.”

    Let us allow that the abolition of death refers to the vivification of the saints. Then the coming of Christ is not only post-millennial but long after the thousand years, so long as government exists! Sovereignty continues in the new creation. Death is not abolished until after it has gone. Hence the saints still sleep! There are no saints to reign on the millennial earth! It cannot be true that they live and reign with Him during the thousand years! It cannot be true that they reign in the new earth! Such absurdities ought to satisfy all that the abolition of death has no reference to the vivification of the saints. (END QUOTE).

    • says

      This is a really long comment, which is fine, I just can’t begin to process it all or even attempt to respond. I am definitely going to have to study 1 Corinthians 15 in more detail.

      But first things first. When you say that God destroys the only remaining death – the second death – are you saying that everybody in the second death is destroyed? Or are they rescued/resurrected out of the second death?

  7. Danny says

    Hi Jeremy. I did send the papers to the jmeyers address, but no worries, I’ll send them again. Both comments were long only because I attempted to answer common objections before they came up. If you read both posts carefully, I’m saying that those in the second death are indeed resurrected out of it and made alive. Revelation doesn’t specifically mention it, but 1 Cor 15:22-28 and many of Paul’s statements in the epistles, and John as well, make it clear that Jesus will indeed save the world, hence the title, Savior of the World. Here’s what I wrote in the above post: “Notice that death isn’t completely defeated until Jesus gives up the Kingdom after the ages of ages are over. During the period of a New Heaven and New Earth, unbelievers are still in the second death. 1 Cor 15:22 makes it clear that they too will be made alive. Some believe that 1 Cor 15:22 refers to the resurrection of both believers and unbelievers – believers to life and unbelievers to a never-ending hell. The context argues against that. Don’t bring in the twisted idea that death is destroyed in that unbelievers remain alive and tormented consciously”

    As to those ETers who believe that “in Christ all are made alive” refers to believers only, they don’t handle the “but each in his own order” very well. Again, here’s A.E. Knoch critiquing that ET view:

    (BEGIN QUOTE) Now let us suppose that only “all in Christ” are included. How shall we understand “Yet each in his own class?” Could anyone suppose that those that are Christ’s would be vivified when He was, in the past? Why, then, bring in these “Classes?” And why, after “those who are Christ’s” have been vivified, speak of “thereafter the consummation?” What comes after the saints have been made alive? The record reads that this coincides with the abolition of death. Hence there is no reasonable alternative except “the balance of mankind.” (END QUOTE)

    • says

      You might have spelled it wrong. It is jmyers. No e.

      By the way, did you see that Rob Bell might be coming out with a book that agrees with you on this?

      Of course, few of us really know what he thinks yet because his book hasn’t come out.

      Yes, I see your point about 1 Corinthians, and I have studied several of these texts, but not in as great of detail as I would like. Eventually I will get to study them.

  8. Danny says

    I checked – I sent both to jmyers. I just misspelled it on this site. Anyway, I sent the new e-mail before your last reply here. Thanks for the link about Rob Bell’s book. Yep, we’ll have to wait and see what his position is. I’ve never listened to Bell, so I don’t know much about him anyway. I tend to stay away from “rock stars” of Christianity. But it seems he’s on the right path on the hell issue. Let’s wait and see. I noticed that the author of the article misrepresented true universalsm with his last two sentences. He wrote: “Is Bell a Universalist? I’d like to reserve comments until his new book comes out. But any ideas that everyone is saved and that Jesus isn’t necessary, by default makes one so.” There are many strands of universalism. Biblical universalism doesn’t teach that all paths lead to God or that all are saved now. It teaches that all will be saved through Christ eventually, and thus His death and Resurrection is very necessary! Eventually all mankind will believe and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philipians 2:9-11). There are some universalists who believe everyone is saved now, but they’re the minority – they don’t handle the judgment passages very well. Biblical universalists acknowledge the necessity of the lake of fire, but the difference from everyone else is that the judgment comes to an end. Research the early church and you’ll see that the earliest Christians didn’t believe in the God of eternal torture. I kept this post short :)

  9. says

    Many theologians who have left the institutional church have been studying this topic for years. I have been blessed to connect with them on Facebook and have been able to study with them. If you are interested in connecting with them, I’d be glad to help get you connected with them. They are patient with though questions. Two different views that I recommend getting acquainted with is Christian Universalism (not to be confused with Unitarian Universalism), Preterists, and Pantelists. These three groups have found some startling and solid conclusion from their research. I don’t agree with everything these groups have discovered, but I do believe that all three of them combined offers some insight that traditional Christianity refuses to consider.

    No matter what we research or question, the truth will be solid and those things that are fallacy will be made obvious. Our salvation is not contingent upon our understanding or misunderstanding of biblical interpretations. Our salvation is in Christ. So hold to Him as the Anchor and he will guide us through this adventure. :)

    • says

      Thanks for the comment. Following Jesus certainly is an adventure. I have never heard of Pentelists before, but from a brief Google search, I see they are somewhat related to Preterists. I wouldn’t mind getting in touch with some of these thinkers, but right now, I am having enough trouble keeping up with my current study projects, let alone finding time to get out in the community to help and serve others. I think I will have to put some of these subjects on the back burner for a while.

  10. Sons of Zadok says

    In the original Hebrew text of the Bible the meaning of the word fool is stupid or uneducated ,so since God made everyone and everything he takes it personal when you call someone a fool, it is a reflection on him, like if you were to call someones son a fool,it would reflect on his father, who raised him.

  11. says

    All verses like this and Matthew 5:28 (where Jesus talks about adultery in a similarly harsh manner, are meant to do is point us straight to verses of Paul’s such as Romans 3:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9: it’s the evidence Jesus provides that, no matter what, even if we never murder a single person or in any way commit adultery, we’re nothing without Him… and, oh, yeah, it’s the meter that shows us who we are and why we need Him, and only Him (John 14:6), to get to heaven.

    • says

      Maybe so. Jesus definitely was using hyperbole to make a point! I think to some degree he was also trying to say something to the religious leaders of His day about their own lack of inner righteousness.

      • Thaddeus Trill says

        Well thanks for doing your best to try and clarify this verse. I usually don’t visit sites like these but recently I started having panic attacks and extreme fears of going to hell despite the fact I am a Christian. It makes me afraid to do anything and I can’t get my mind straight or back to normal.

        I wish I could and I am trying really hard but it never lasts. Verses like the one above you were discussing have definitely been on my mind and its nice to see people like you bring me comfort.

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