Luke 23.43 "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise".
The question which is asked is this, did the thief go to "paradise" that day to be with Christ? Almost without a moments hesitation many Christians would answer "yes" but is that indeed what happened? Let us look carefully at the facts.
The thief's request was "Lord remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom". The thief was no doubt an Israelite and as such knew well the promises of the Old Testament regarding the Messiah and the kingdom He would reign over. He had read the superscription written over the Saviour's head "This is Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews". He had watched the Lord and listened to His words and realized He was indeed the King. The thief did not ask to be taken to heaven to be with the Lord when he died that day but for Christ to remember him when he came into His kingdom.
Our Lord's answer to him was regarding that day when His kingdom will be set up on earth otherwise it had no relevance. He promised the thief that he would be part of it when it would come. Later, after His resurrection the Lord told Mary "I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to My God, and your God". Surely these plain words of scripture are clear, Jesus had not at that point ascended into heaven.
The problem lies with the comma and where the translators have placed it in the verse. Greek scholars inform us that in the original Greek there are no punctuation marks so it was at the discretion of the translators where they placed it. The words of Christ to the thief are easily understood when we recognize this important fact, He simply told him "I tell you today you will be with me in paradise". The word "paradise" has the definite article and should read "The paradise", not referring to heaven at all but the paradise of the kingdom set up on earth.
Someone is sure to say “that's what the Jehovah Witnesses teach about this verse”. We are not interested in what JW'S say and indeed recognize them as a false cult but we cannot change the true meaning of the verse just to get one over on them. The readers will see as we deal with other texts that it would have been scripturally impossible for the thief to go to heaven that day anyhow, but more on that later.