What is the difference between grave, Hades and hell? Are there people in hell and heaven yet or are they waiting for the second coming of Christ? What is the meaning of death in Revelation 20: 11-15? What is the difference between hell and the lake of fire?
The thief’s death on the cross
When Jesus hung on the cross, He spoke the words: “Today you will be with Me in paradise,” to one of the thieves (Luke 23:43). This indicates that right after the thief’s death, he would go to heaven, because he trusted Jesus for his salvation. Another indication for immediate departure to either heaven or hell, is Luke 16: 19-31. Jesus tells the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus here; it is not entirely clear whether this is a parable or not, but it is hard to believe that even if it were a parable, Jesus would describe a situation that is totally false. The rich man dies and wakes up in Hades, or hell. Lazarus is carried to the bosom of Abraham right after his death.
Passage from Revelation
The passage from Revelation 20:11-15 talks about death and Hades, or hell. Death here means the last enemy that will be destroyed when Christ returns and raises believers. This refers to physical death. Death and hades will both be thrown into the lake of fire, which is also called the second death. Second death refers to spiritual death. All people who are not reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). This passage teaches that Hades is temporary and will exist until Jesus returns. After the great judgment when the books are opened (Revelation 20:12) Hades and death are both swallowed by the lake of fire along with all whose names are not in the book of life; but those whose names are written in it, will enjoy the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21).
Places that exist
So both heaven and hell are places that exist until Jesus returns. Those who die in Christ, exist in heaven as spirits (Hebrews 12:23) but at Jesus’ return, will receive a new resurrection body that will not be subject to illness or death (Revelation 21:4).
The reality of hell and the lake of fire is terrible. A person without Christ is utterly lost in death and darkness. God does not want people to end this way. He sent his one and only Son to reconcile sinners to Himself: “For our sake he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Paul wrote to the believers of Corinth that God implores people to get reconciled: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Just like Paul was an ambassador for Christ, so believers nowadays are ambassadors for Christ who have the task to point people to Christ and to reconciliation that is found only in Him.