“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:42 and 43 is often used to teach that the penitent malefactor who believed in Jesus immediately went to “heaven” when he died (even though the verse in question reads “paradise”). However, the phrase in verse 43, “I tell you the truth today,” was a common Hebrew idiom used to emphasize the solemnity and importance of an occasion or moment (compare Deut. 4:26, 39, 40; 5:1; 6:6; 7:11, Josh. 23:14).
Recognizing this idiom and properly punctuating the verse with the comma after the word “today,” we see that Jesus’ meaning is clearly future, to be fulfilled when he comes again and establishes his kingdom on earth.
We must keep in mind that any punctuation in our translations were added by the translators and not in the Greek. It is up to the translator’s discretion when to add a comma or take one away.
Thus the verse should read as follows:
“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise.’”
Also, the word “paradise” refers biblically to the place of beauty on earth described in Genesis 2, lost in Genesis 3, that will be restored by the Lord Jesus Christ when he returns to earth (see Rev. 22:1-3). For more information on “paradise,” see the note on Ecclesiastes 2:5, page 908; and Appendix 173 in The Companion Bible, edited by E.W. Bullinger.
Not only did the penitent malefactor not go to “paradise” that day, neither did Jesus Christ. As stated earlier, he died and spent the next three days and three nights in the grave.