“Truly I tell you, this very day you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Who is Jesus saying this to?

Jesus says this to one of the two criminals that were being crucified with Jesus. Here is how the conversation went:
One of the criminals who was being hanged hurled insults at him, saying, “Are you not the Anointed? Save yourself and us.” But the other criminal answered and rebuked him: “Don’t you even fear God? You are in fact condemned with the same sentence. Our punishments are justified, because we are receiving the consequences of our actions. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you have arrived at your sanctuary.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, this very day you will be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:39-43 Lost Gospels)
Why would Jesus tell the criminal this? And why would a criminal be going to "paradise"? Don't criminals "go to hell"?

The first criminal deeply offended Jesus. A person who criticizes or ridicules God's Representative is making the worst offense.

The second criminal defended Jesus. He rebuked the first criminal and he also referenced Jesus' relationship with the Supreme Being. He challenged the first criminal about fearing God because he was blaspheming God's representative.

Because the second criminal defended Jesus, he was rewarded with being delivered. This means he was allowed to return to his loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

Isn't this the goal of life?

Yes, this is the goal of human life - to return home to our relationship with the Supreme Being at the end of this lifetime. If we do not do this, then we have failed to carry out the responsibility of this human life.

You see, we are essentially spirit-persons temporarily occupying a physical body. This might be compared to owning a car. A person might buy a car and own it for a few years. During that time, the person will get inside the car and drive it around.

But at some point, the person will get out of the car for the last time and sell the car, or trade it in for another. This is like the time of death - when we leave these physical bodies.

The human form of life comes with a higher level of consciousness and intelligence. In the human form of life, we can question our identity and seek our spiritual perfection. In the human form of life, we can seek to reconnect with our lost relationship with the Supreme Being.

These advanced abilities provide those in the human form of life with a bridge back to our relationship with God. Or not - it's our choice. If we don't take this opportunity, then we will likely have to return to the physical world in another body to continue our learning process.

The other species of this world don't have the capabilities of the human form. They don't have the ability to comprehend the spiritual realm and our relationship with God. Their consciousness is covered. They are in ignorance - and engaged only in a fight for survival.

Is that not hell?

Such ignorance of God is the very definition of hell. Where else is hell? Do you really think there is a dungeon underground as preached by some? We have never found such a place after centuries of digging even miles deep underground.

Oh, but you don't think that we could inhabit the bodies of any other species? How else could someone experience hell after this human body dies and gets cremated or decomposes? How else could a person be exposed to a hellish dimension except by dwelling in another body?

Depictions of hell usually show cages or cells where the person is chained up and beaten. The body of an animal is certainly a cell of sorts. And the spirit-person is chained within that body.

What is the difference between humans and dogs and cats then? Consciousness. We have a higher consciousness - able to reconnect with the Supreme Being.

For this reason, we should treat this human lifetime as precious. We should focus our lives upon re-establishing our relationship with God so that we too can return home to "paradise."

What is heaven?

Why is the spiritual realm referred to as a "heaven" and a "sanctuary?" Because it is that place where there is no fear. There is only love. There is no envy. There are loving relationships taking place between the Supreme Being and His children and between His children.

Those who decide to reject their loving relationship with God have essentially bought a ticket out of the spiritual realm. This is the meaning of the third chapter of Genesis, where God kicks Adam and Eve out of Eden ("Paradise").

God kicked them out because they ate the "forbidden fruit." And what is that? It is envy. The desire to be God. The desire to enjoy life in a self-centered way.

This is not our natural position. But we each are given the option of loving God or rejecting Him. This is because love requires freedom to love - along with the freedom not to.

Those who choose not to love God immediately become envious of Him. Why? Because when we lose our love for God we are left with a gaping hole in our heart - an emptiness that cannot be filled with anything else but love for God. This creates essentially, a bottomless hole in our heart.

And in order to fill that emptiness, we become self-centered. We want to be powerful. We want to enjoy stuff. We want, we want, we want.

This is what gets us pushed out of the spiritual realm and into a physical body in one species or another. Then we can live out lives of self-centeredness within the physical world chasing one self-centered desire after another.

Unless and until we come to our senses and decide to return to our loving relationship with God. This is achievable only in the human form of life.

Jesus is telling the second criminal that he will return to the spiritual realm because he has obviously been a student of Jesus. He asks Jesus to, “Remember me when you have arrived at your sanctuary.”

What is the sanctuary?

This means that he had heard Jesus' teachings. The word "sanctuary" here is translated from the Greek word, βασιλεία (basileia). This is translated to "kingdom" in many translations. While "kingdom" isn't necessarily wrong, it is not the best choice to capture the meaning of the word in this context. "Sanctuary" is a better translation than "kingdom" in this case.

Thus we find that this second criminal is actually an exalted personality. Yes, he may have committed a crime. But his crime was forgiven due to his devotion to Jesus and his teachings. He recognized the essence of Jesus' teachings that we each need to return home to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being. He achieved the goal of life by remembering this near the death of his body. And he spent his last few minutes on earth serving Jesus - and thus serving God - by defending Jesus and rebuking the other criminal.

But many might ask the same thing the first criminal challenged Jesus with - why didn't Jesus save himself from being crucified - or why didn't God save him?

The reason is that in order for the Supreme Being to give each of us the freedom to love Him and return to Him, He also has to give each of us the freedom to reject Him. Each of us must be given the freedom to denounce the Supreme Being and even condemn and hurt those who the Supreme Being sends us to teach us about Him.

If we didn't have that ability to reject those who God sends to teach us, then we wouldn't have the freedom to accept their teachings and choose to love Him either.

It is like free speech. In order to protect free speech, as some countries do, the country must also protect those who speak out in ways that might offend others. It is sometimes frustrating that people would use free speech to say offensive things, but in order to protect freedom of speech, one also has to put up with sometimes hearing offensive things.

In the same way, in order to protect our freedom to love God, the Supreme Being and His representative also must protect the ability to reject God and blaspheme or even harm His representative.

This doesn't mean that God is pleased when someone criticizes or harms His representative. This is the worst thing a person can do for his chances to return home to the spiritual realm.

But notice that even though Jesus' body was gruesomely murdered, Jesus still returned to "paradise." It was only Jesus' temporary physical body that was murdered. Jesus left that body and returned home to be with the Supreme Being.

This is why Jesus said:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matt. 10:28)