43And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Paradise was also called “Abraham’s bosom,” which He mentioned in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22). After His death, Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth (Eph. 4:9), and John 20:17 shows that it was some time after His resurrection before Jesus ascended to His Father. Therefore, Paradise was “Abraham’s bosom,” located in sheol in the lower parts of the earth.
The phrase “led captivity captive” from Ephesians 4:8, refers to Jesus liberating the Old Testament saints from a part of hell called sheol in Hebrew. It is this Hebrew word that is translated hell in Psalm 16:10, which prophesies Jesus saying, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27-30).
The ungodly dead also went to Sheol, or hell, but Jesus taught in Luke 16:19-31 that there was a great gulf fixed between the godly and the ungodly. Those in the torment of hell envied those who were enjoying the blessings of the Lord in Abraham’s bosom or Paradise.
Even though these Old Testament saints were blessed, they were not able to enter into the presence of the Lord because the atonement of Jesus Christ had not been completed. In that sense, they were captives. When Jesus died, He descended into sheol and took the captives captive. He took them to heaven, into the very presence of God, and vacated Paradise. After that, all that remained was the torment of hell.
The thief next to Jesus, when they were being crucified, asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus assured him they would meet shortly in Paradise. Today, whether you are raptured to meet Jesus in the air or simply pass from your body in old age, you have nothing but heaven to look forward to also.