Luke 23:42-43 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
First of all, the word paradise needs to be defined and understood correctly. Jesus did not say that he was going to ‘heaven’, and this point must be made firmly. He used the word paradise. This word in the Greek version of Genesis is used to translate the word “garden” in Genesis 2-3, making the first abode of Adam and Even the paradise of God. It also shows us in Rev. 2:7 as a future reward for the faithful believers. A similar sense is received from a similar Hebrew word pardise, which is used only in Neh. 2:8; Ecc. 2:5; and Songs 4:13 to refer to a garden or grove.
Secondly, where one puts the comma in verse 43 is an editorial and interpretive choice of the reader. The passage could just as easily been rendered “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with me in Paradise”, which states that the reference to “today” is an emphasis given to the words Jesus is speaking about. This makes better sense when noting that the thief/brigand on the cross next to Jesus was repeatedly asking for Jesus to remember him when he comes into the kingdom (as the Greek indicates). Jesus, in short, answers that he does not have to wait until them for verification, for he will tell him right now: he shall be with him in Paradise.
One might now ask, “where exactly did Jesus actually go when he died? Did he go to Paradise, i.e. a garden somewhere?” Many passages, such as Matt. 12:40; John 20:17; Acts 2:27, 31; and Ecc. 3:20 indicate that Jesus went to the grave when he died, since he was buried there. Since the act of resurrection involves an upward direction of the body, this requires that Jesus went into the grave when he died. Jesus certainly didn’t go to heaven at death.