The New World Translations renders this verse: "And he said to him: 'Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.'"
Many people criticize this rendering based off of the comma placement. If most Bible's like the TNIV are correct then the thief (and Jesus) went to "paradise" that same day. If the NWT is correct then the thief was in "paradise" later. Where the comma is placed changes the entire meaning of the sentence.
The first thing that any person who wants to determine where the comma goes has to keep one thing in mind--Koine Greek did not have a comma. Yes, every single comma in your New Testament was added by the translators. When it comes to Luke 23:43, bias dictates where someone puts the comma.
The basic belief of most so-called Christians today is that when someone dies they immediately go to heaven. The thief, having repented of his sins, would have gone to heaven that same day. Their doctrine requires that.
Is it true that Jesus went to heaven that same day? Did the thief go to heaven that same day? Which rendering agrees with the basic teachings of the Bible?
First of all, what does the Bible say? The King James Version says at Acts 2:31, "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. Other Bible translations say that he was not left in "hades." (New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version) Obviously, when Jesus died, he was in hell, or hades, not heaven. The Bible says that he was in "hell" for three days.-Luke 24:7; Acts 10:40
Second, Jesus said that only those who were "born again" could "see the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Being born again involved being "born from water and spirit." (John 3:5) So, these people had to be baptized in water, and then be baptized in the holy spirit. When did the baptism with holy spirit take place?-Mark 1:8
Jesus Christ died on the Passover. 50 days later, on Pentecost, the Bible reports that the disciples "were all together at the same place, and suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And tongues as if of fire became visible to them and were distributed about, and one sat upon each one of them, and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance. (Acts 2:1-4) So, it wasn't until 50 days after Jesus died that the first ones were "born again", or "born from water and spirit." The repentant thief was already dead, not having been born again. He could not have been in heaven that same day.
Third, Christ is called the "firstborn from the dead." (Revelation 1:5) Since the Bible speaks of other resurrections before Jesus, this statement must mean something different. (1 Kings 17:17-23; 2 Kings 4:17-37) What this statement means is that Christ was the first person to be raised up from death and then have an ascension to heaven. Another place in the Bible says that Christ is the "firstfruits", the first to be resurrected to heaven, but then "afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence." (1 Corinthians 15:23) It wasn't until the presence of Christ that others would be raised to heavenly life.-1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
All of the Biblical evidence points to the fact that the man did not go to heaven that same day and so the comma should go after today, backing up the rendering in the New World Translation and a few other Bible translations.
Just so all fears can be dispelled, let us look at the context to see if it is at all revealing.
"But one of the hung evildoers began to say abusively to him: 'You are the Christ, are you not? Save yourself and us.' In reply the other rebuked him and said: 'Do you not fear God at all, now that you are in the same judgment? And we, indeed, justly so, for we are receiving in full what we deserve for things we did; but this man did nothing out of the way.' And he went on to say: 'Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.' And he said to him: 'Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.'"-Luke 23:39-43
Even the context supports the NWT. How? The thief says to Jesus, "Remember me when you get into your kingdom." When did Jesus "get into [his] kingdom?" Was it upon his ascension to heaven?
The Scriptures do not teach that. In a major prophecy (quoted about two dozen times in the NT, more then any other prophecy) in the book of Psalms we read, "The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: 'Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.'" (Psalm 110:1) The New Testament writers indicated that Jesus sat at the right hand of his Father after his ascension to heaven. "Jesus...is on the right hand of God." (Romans 8:34) How long is he to be at the right hand of God? The book of Revelation, a book of prophecy that takes place "in the Lord's day" shows that Jesus did not get into his kingdom until that time.-Revelation 1:10; 12:5, 10
All of this proves that neither the thief (nor Jesus) entered into heaven that same day, as many so desperately want to believe. However, it is wrong to ignore what the Bible teaches, even on a matter as seemingly insignificant on this. Really, wouldn't it please yourself, and more importantly, God, to embrace Bible Truth? There is nothing more important.