Jesus said he would, therefore he did.
But there are many false teachers who want to change the punctuation of Luke 23:43, where Jesus made the promise to the thief on the cross:
Luk 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Our final destiny is not to live in heaven forever, but on earth forever with our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is made quite clear by Matthew 5:5,
Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Until then, however, if we die physically before the Rapture, if we are truly saved, we will go to heaven to be with our Lord Jesus Christ, who is surely there upon His throne.
No human beings are slated to live in heaven forever. There is only ONE hope and destiny for all those in this current age, often called the “church age” by theologians and careful Bible students, FOR there is only ONE BODY, and one hope of our calling, as Paul absolutely and unequivocally affirms (Ephesians 4:4,5). The idea of some that 144,000 are the only ones who have a heavenly hope, while the rest of us are consigned to a mere earthly hope is nonsense in terms of what the Bible teaches, and in plain language this view is utterly false doctrine, soul-destroying doctrine at that for any who believe it.
There are some who assert that there is no consciousness after death. In the not too distant past I visited Robinson Crusoe’s Desert Island (my metaphor for genuine independent Bible study using a plain text Bible) and found evidence for well over a dozen Scriptural proofs of consciousness after death being the Bible’s teaching. The body is dead upon our decease, but souls and spirits are eternal: they do not die physically, only spiritually. The body returns to dust, the soul does not! They who have died in faith are very much alive, awaiting eagerly the resurrection of their bodies.
They who have died in unbelief are also very much alive and conscious, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies 1000 years after the resurrection of the righteous dead.
But the main point I wish to address is the absurd notion that Jesus told the thief on the Cross (note carefully the wrong punctuation), “I say unto you today, you will be with me in paradise.” To postulate such a response on the part of our Lord Jesus Christ is absurd because it is contrary to Greek grammar. As recorded in the Greek New Testament, this cannot be the meaning. Even though Greek has very little punctuation in the original manuscripts, it is most obvious in terms of the grammar what the punctuation must be. To argue otherwise indicates a lack of study in the field of grammar, or an axe to grind.
Jesus had no need to instruct the thief on the cross that he was speaking to him on that very day: that point is beyond the obvious! The notion that Jesus said that is most absurd.
Jesus was addressing the thief, correcting and instructing the thief’s hope of being in Christ’s Kingdom here on earth upon Christ’s Return in Glory. Jesus is asserting to the thief you will not need to wait until then, for this very day you will be with me in Paradise.
Jesus was NOT speaking to the thief about some future time on the earth when the thief would awake from an unknown length of time of soul-sleep at the resurrection to regain consciousness as if no time had passed, so seeming to be but an instant between the thief’s moment of death and his conscious presence with Christ in the earthly kingdom.
This concept can directly be proven to be utterly false because Jesus used the term Paradise, which is the same as what Paul calls the “third heaven,” when Paul was consciously caught up to the third heaven, which Paul absolutely asserts was Paradise (See 2 Corinthians 12:2, “caught up to the third heaven” and 2 Corinthians 12:4, “How that he was caught up into paradise”).
Jesus promised the thief “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
You may be certain, therefore, that consciousness continues after death, and that like that thief on the cross who trusted Christ and believed His work for him on the Cross, we too share in that blessed promise, if we have put our trust in Christ for our salvation.
If consciousness does not continue after death, Jesus could not have told the thief “Today you will be with me in paradise,” for if unconscious, the thief would never know he was in Paradise, and could not know he was with Jesus, according to His promise.