On good Friday, the words of Jesus on the cross are often highlighted. One of the phrases was to one of the thieves that were crucified with Jesus.
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Paradise was not heaven, it was the place of the saved or righteous dead. Until Jesus rose from the dead no one was in heaven because sin had not yet been paid for. Paradise was in the center of the earth and was in the same proximity as hell though they were separated.
In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’
The rich man was in hades or hell, and Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom or paradise. They could see each other and they could hear each other.
In the Old Testament, Samuel the prophet had died and Saul was frightened about an upcoming war with the Philistines so he hired a witch to see if she could talk to Samuel and ask him some questions. When Samuel appeared to her he came up from the earth.
1 Samuel 28:13-14
The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.
When Jesus rose from the dead He led all those who were in paradise into heaven as a big parade.
Therefore it says, when He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives,
When Jesus died on the cross he went to the center of the earth and when He rose from the dead He entered heaven.
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Now, because of our faith in what Jesus did and who he is we go directly to heaven when we die.