What is the difference between hell and lake of fire?
Please see What Does the Bible Say About..Hades and Hell? for my previous answer about the different words translated “hell” in the King James Version.
Revelation 20:14 says, “Death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Since “hades” generally means the grave, both death and the grave will be cast into the “lake of fire.” So that brings us to the question, what is the lake of fire?
The lake of fire is a symbol only used in the latter part of the Revelation. It is also called “the second death.” As I point out in a previous answer at What Does the Bible Say About..Two Resurrections? , the first death is our spiritual separation from God when we sin. The second death could then be the physical death, but there are some problems with that. Christians don’t have to suffer the second death. And death is thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death. So the lake of fire is probably not physical death. Therefore, it must be another spiritual separation from God. Who is thrown into the lake? Perhaps that can tell us what it is.
The first ones thrown into the lake are the beast and the false prophet. Since the beast represents the Roman Empire that then existed, the lake of fire has something to do with the fall of Rome. Next the deceiving devil, Satan, was cast into the lake. In the Revelation this has to do with the persecutions against the church under Roman rule. Next comes death and the grave, which no longer have power over believers (1 Corinthians 15). Then come those who are not written in the book of life, and finally all sinners. All of this precedes the glorious picture of the church found in chapters 21-22. Therefore, it probably precedes the triumph of the church. I won’t be dogmatic about this, but it appears to me that the second death (separation from God) is the separation between the saved and the unsaved that comes with the death of Christ on the cross. Rome attempted to destroy the church, and failed. Satan’s power was broken when Jesus died and arose again. Death and the grave are already in the lake of fire. Since there is a separation between those who follow Christ and those who don’t, the lake of fire is constantly receiving those who refuse to follow him.
This is a complex answer to your question. It may be more than you wanted to know. Nevertheless, I thank you for a good question that has made me think out some things that I never closely looked at before.