The earthly circumstances of the one thief on the cross did not change even the tiniest bit when the Lord Jesus spoke to him. He was still in horrible circumstances. It was like God did nothing at all for him. But, of course, he was actually in a better than wonderful situation. He realized he was right next to the very Lord Jesus who told him he would be in Paradise with Him today.
In yesterday's devotional blog, Mitch suggested that "today" actually meant at that very moment. I think Mitch is correct. I think it makes what Jesus said make the most sense.
Earthly circumstances change so very quickly. And, regardless of our circumstances, they may or may not give us peace or joy. It all depends--on something quite other than our circumstances.
For this thief to know that he was accepted and loved by God as He was so beautifully manifested in His Son, was paradise.
Guaranteed, despite the excruciating pain, he felt joy and peace, and triumph!
Perhaps he cried out, years before the Apostle Paul, "Oh death, where is your sting?"