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 DT)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. And his destiny was certainly hell for blaspheming God's Representative. This is a major offense, not to be taken lightly. 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 saved. This means he was allowed to return to the spiritual realm - the sanctuary of God - at the end of his body's lifetime.
This is actually the goal of human life - to return home to our place in the spiritual realm to be 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, there are many other species of life that so many spirit-persons are living within. We can look around us and see all the different bodies that house spirit-persons like us. These include animals, fish, birds, plants and microorganisms. These species of life do not have the potential that the human body has. Why not?
Because the human form of life comes with a higher level of consciousness and intelligence. Here 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 home in the spiritual realm at the end of this lifetime. Or not - it's our choice. If we don't take this opportunity, then we will end up in another form of life.
The other forms of life - such as animals, fish, birds, plants and microorganisms - 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.
Such ignorance is what hell is. Where else is hell? Do you really think there is a dungeon underground as imagined by sectarian teachers? 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.
This notion of going "down" to hell is actually symbolic to the spirit-person being transported into a physical body that is less conscious - and more ignorant. The domain of the animal and plant kingdoms are the dimensions of hell. And their experiences are completely hellish. Imagine literally fearing for your life every second of the day - being chased and eaten by huge animals or fish with big fangs or jaws. This is the life of an animal or fish or insect. They are chained to a constant state of fear, occupying bodies chased by monsters.
This is the dimension where those who want to forget God go. For those who want to reject God and forget God - they can have their ignorance with lifetimes within animal bodies, with no ability to comprehend a Supreme Being.
Oh, but you don't "believe" that the spirit-person can occupy an animal body? Who, then, are occupying those bodies? Look into the eyes of the next dog or cat you see. Are they not alive just as we are? Are they not not seeking love just as we are? Are they not seeking survival just as we are?
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."
Why is the spiritual realm referred to as a "paradise" and a "sanctuary?" Because it is that place where there is no fear. There is only love. There is no envy. There is only loving relationships taking place between the Supreme Being and His children and between His children.
Those who develop envy and decide to reject their relationship with God are quickly escorted out of the spiritual realm. These folks are kicked out of the spiritual realm. This is the meaning of the third chapter of Genesis, where God kicks Adam and Even 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.”
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 most sectarian translations. While "kingdom" isn't necessarily wrong, it is not the best choice to capture the meaning of the word in this context. Here is a description of why "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)