“To day” – This would not happen tomorrow or some indefinite undisclosed time in the future. On this day of their deaths, they would be in paradise. Death, for the Christian, ushers one into the presence of God (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; cf. also Ecclesiastes 12:7; Luke 16:22; Romans 14:8).
“shalt be” – This is an accurate prophecy, a positive promise, with an unquestionable result. The fulfillment hinges on their deaths happening that day. Were the two left on the cross to die the next day, the promise would not have been fulfilled. Jesus not only controlled the dismissal of his spirit, but all the events of his arrest, sentencing, and crucifixion (John 18:6; John 19:11; John 19:30; Acts 4:27-28).
“thou” – The promise was to this man in particular, but for example, not to the other thief (cf. also, “I say unto thee…” Universal salvation is a hopeless hope, the pipe dream of the biblically uninitiated. God’s people will dwell with him in eternal glory while others are cast from his presence (Revelation 20:15-21:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; John 6:37; Matthew 1:21).
“with me” – The promise is to dwell with Jesus, be in his presence. Wherever Jesus is, ’tis heaven! Jesus said, “that where I am ye may be also” (John 14:3). He will never leave us or forsake us, neither in life nor in death (Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:5). Things we do not understand of heaven and eternity fade into the background by the dear words “be with me.” May we desire to live where Jesus lives. If he is in the garden, we should want to be be there. If he is in the wilderness, we should want to be there. If he is in the valley or on the mountaintop, we want to be there. It does not matter – where Jesus is – that is the place to be!” On land or sea, what matters where? Where Jesus is, ’tis Heaven there.”[i]
“in paradise” – Paradise (Gk. paradeisos) derives from a Persian word with the idea of a beautiful garden or park.[ii] It is used in three verses in the New Testament (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7. With Revelation 2:7, cf. Revelation 22:2; the tree of life is in paradise and in the New Jerusalem). His people will behold the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4), worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2), and dwell eternally in a gloriously beautiful place (Psalm 48:2; Revelation 22:1-5).
Luke 23:42-43 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.