This blog is based on the story of Christ's crucifixion found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23; and in particular his conversation on the cross with one of the two thieves who were crucified with him.
Luke 23.42: One of the two thieves said to Jesus, "Jesus, remember me when you come into - or in - your kingdom." The thief believed that Jesus would return to life and come into his kingdom. When he said 'come' he meant come back as king! He must have been the first person really to believe that Jesus was going to be resurrected and that his death would not be the end of him or of his claim to be the Messiah. He believed Jesus truly was the king who was to come, even though he first had to die. Jesus's own disciples had not grasped that Jesus would be raised again, in spite of his telling them several times. So what an amazing faith this thief had!!! And what a comfort and reassurance his words to Jesus must have been in that moment! At last there was someone who believed that his death was not a mistake but rather an essential stage in God's fulfilment of his prophetic purpose for the world. I think that somehow the Father arranged for that thief to be crucified next to his Son. How Jesus must have loved him!
Luke 23.43: Jesus replied, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Since Jesus spent the next two and a half days in Hades and did not ascend to his Father until some time on Easter Sunday (Matthew 12.40; John 20.17; 2 Peter 3.19), this verse has to be translated like this: "Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise," with the comma moved one word to the right. The Greek had no punctuation, so this translation is equally correct, and it does not then conflict with the other verses. Jesus promised the thief a place with him in Paradise, but not on that very day.
What did Jesus mean by 'Paradise'? The thief had asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. "Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" is God's purpose, or he would not ask us to pray for it, but when Jesus returns at first to reign on this present earth for a thousand years the earth will not yet be Paradise. However when God then creates a new heaven and earth it will once again be perfect, like it was in the Garden of Eden, in other words, Paradise. (The world 'paradise' is associated with 'garden'.) So when Jesus promised the thief a place in Paradise rather than in his kingdom, which is what the thief requested, he was promising something even better than the thief had asked for or imagined; not only to be alive again when Jesus returned to rule this present fallen earth as king for a thousand years, but to live as well in the perfect new earth which God has promised at the end of this present age.