“To Day Shalt Thou Be with Me in Paradise”
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“One of the malefactors partook of the spirit of the enemies of Jesus and joined in their mockery and railing; the other had in his heart the seeds of faith and repentance, and sufficient moral courage to decry injustice, to defend innocence, and to seek salvation. This much is clear from the plain wording of the scriptures, particularly when the additions found in the [Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible] are considered.
“But the great doctrinal problem growing out of this episode is concerned with death-bed repentance. Can men, after a life of wickedness, as they stand at death’s door, confess the Lord Jesus with their lips and thereby gain salvation in His kingdom? Many who do not have the light that has come with the restored gospel suppose this to be the case. That there is no such doctrine in the true gospel of Christ, however, is clear from the tenor and meaning of the whole body of revealed writing and also from specific revelations which deal with the express point [see Alma 34:33–35].
“On the other hand, people who die without a knowledge of the gospel, but who would have repented and obeyed the truth if the opportunity had been afforded them, shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel in the spirit world and become heirs of salvation. Such an one was the penitent malefactor [see John 5:25].
“Paradise is the abode of the spirits of the just pending the day of their resurrection [i.e., the world of spirits; see Alma 40:11–14; History of the Church, 5:424–25]. Paradise is not heaven; it is not the ultimate home of the Saints; it is not the abode of saved beings [see Luke 16:19–31].”
(Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:823–24.)