Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Dishonesty of the Qur'an

Changing the significance of a word to change the whole Gospel

Wail Taghlibi

The goal of this article is to show the contrast between what the Qur’an says about the way in which Jesus’ earthly life ended and what the Bible says in this respect. In a statement recorded in the gospel of John, Jesus used the verb “lift up” to refer to his death on the cross, his resurrection and his ascension to heaven. The author of the Qur'an used the present participle of that verb, and at the same time he changed its significance. His purpose in doing so was to undermine and deny one of the basic biblical doctrines upon which Christian faith was founded, i.e., the doctrine of redemption. The author of the Qur’an was not satisfied with the phrase, “I will take thee to Me and will raise thee to Me,” (Q. 3:55, Arberry) which implies, according to Muslim commentaries, the denial of the crucifixion of Christ and his redemptive work. He emphasizes his hostility towards the cross by another verse which clearly denies the crucifixion, (Q. 4:157, Arberry) “…Yet they did not slay him (the Messiah), neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them.”

We shall first review what the Qur'an says about the way Jesus’ earthly life ended. Then we shall see what the Bible says in this respect.

What the Qur'an's says about the end of Jesus’ life on earth:

In order to understand what the Qur’an says we need to study the verse that speaks about the end of Jesus’ life on earth and its interpretations. We need also to review other related Qur’anic verses that speak generally about “wafat” and “mowt”, in an attempt to understand the main verse, “Q. 3:55”.

First, taking and raising Isa (Jesus): The key verse in this regard is, “When God said, ‘Jesus! I will take thee to Me and I will raise thee to Me and purify thee from those who believe not…’” (Q.3:55, Arberry)

In order to understand this verse we need to review its various interpretations and the interpretations of the Qur’anic verses, which talk about both "taking" [wafat] and death [mowt] in an attempt to find out whether or not we could get a clear explanation of that essential verse.

1. God shall "take" Jesus [mutawaffika]. “When God said, ‘Jesus, I will take thee to Me, and I will raise thee to Me…,’” (Q.3:55, Arberry)

Tabari interprets this verse as the following: “Allah – be he highly praised – means: Allah plotted against [wa maker allahu bihim] the people who attempted to kill Isa (Jesus) (those of the children of Israel who did not believe) in addition to their disbelief in God and disbelief in what was revealed to Isa (Jesus) from their God.” (see Tabari 5619 for his commentary on 3:54). Allah – be he highly praised – said: “Behold! Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself’”. (Q. 3:55 Yusuf Ali) So the word “behold” / “when” is a bond of conjunction with the previous sentence, “and God ” (Q. 3:54). It means God plotted against them when he said to Jesus: “Behold I will take thee and raise thee to Myself”. So God took Jesus and raised him to Himself.

The interpreters disagreed regarding the meaning of God’s “taking” [al-wafat] of Jesus in this verse.

A) Some said this “taking” occurred while Jesus was asleep; they meant that God was saying: ‘I will cause you to sleep, and then I will raise you while you are asleep’. Al-Tabari 5620, Al-Muthanna reported to me, seconded by Abdul-Allah b. Abi Jaafar, from his father, from Al-Rabee that the saying, “I will take thee” means: I will cause you to sleep, that is to die: thus God raised him (Jesus) while he was asleep. (i.e. dead)

B) Others said: that sentence means I am collecting you from earth, and raising you to Me. It is similar to saying I am collecting what Mr. X owed me. So when God said, “I will take you to Me” he meant, “I will collect you alive from earth to my side, and I will take you alive, and I will raise you from among polytheists and those who did not believe you.” (According to) Tabari 5621- Ali b. Sahl reported to us, seconded by Dhamrah b. Rabeeh, b. Shawdhab, from Matar Al-Warraq interpreting Allah’s saying “I will take thee to me” that he said, ‘this sentence means: I will collect you from earth; that is collecting/taking without death.’ (According to) Tabari 5626 - Yunis reported to me, he said: ibn Wahab told us that ibn Zaid, said that God’s saying, “I will take you to Me and raise you” means: ‘I will take you to Me,’ that is I will collect you. Ibn Zaid added: the two sentences: “I will take you to Me” and “I will raise you”, mean the same thing. (According to) Tabari 5627, Muhammad bn. Sinan reported to us, seconded by Abou Bakr Al-Hanafi from Abbad, from Al-Hasan interpreting Allah’s saying, “I will take you to Me and raise you to Me” it means that God raised Isa (Jesus) to Himself, so now Isa (Jesus) is with God in Heaven.

C) Others said: It means I will take you dead. (According to) Tabari 5628, Al-Muthanna reported to me, seconded by Abdullah b. Salih, that he said, seconded by Muawiyah, from Ali from Ibn Abbas that he said: “I will take you”. He means: ‘I will cause you to die.’

(According to) Tabari 5629, ibn Humayd reported to us, he said, seconded by Salamah, from ibn Ishaq from him who is above accusation, from Wahab b. Al-Yamani, that he said: ‘God caused Isa (Jesus) the son of Mary to die three hours in daytime after which he lifted Isa (Jesus) to Himself.’ Tabari 5630: Ibn Humayd reported to us, he said, seconded by Ibn Ishaq, that he said, ‘Christians allege that God caused Isa (Jesus) to die for seven hours in daytime, and then he brought him back to life.’

D) Others said: “Behold! Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme…’” (Q.3:55, Yusuf Ali) that saying means I will take thee to me after I had brought you down to earth. Abu-Jaafar said the most credible among those sayings is the one that says, the meaning is: I am collecting you to me from earth and raising you to me.

E) According to reports from the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) he said: ‘Isa (Jesus) b. Mariam will come down and kill the quack [Dajjal], He remains in earth for a time which has various esteems according to various reports. Then he will die, so Muslims will pray over him and bury him.’ (According to) Tabari 5631, Ibn. Humayd told us, he said: seconded by Salama, from ibn Ishaq, from Muhammad b. Muslim al-Zahri, from Hanzalah b. Ali al-Aslami from Abi Hurairah that he had said, I have heard the Messenger saying, “Surely Allah would bring down Isa b. Mariam a just judge and a fair Imam, who would crush the cross, kill the swine, impose the Jizya, increase money so that no one will pick it up, and will stay in Rowhaa on his way to minor Haj or major Haj or both.” - Tabari 5632 Ibn Humayd reported to us, saying, seconded by Ibn Ishaak, from al-Hassan b. Dinar, from Qatadah, from Abdul-Rahman b. Adam, from Abi-Hureira, that he said: ‘Allah’s Messenger (SAWS0) said, (referring to Isa ibn Mariam) “he is coming down… he will crush the cross, kill the swine lavish money, and fight people in the cause of Islam; thus Allah will extinguish in his time all denominations… Isa will stay on earth forty years, then dies. Muslims will pray over him and bury him.”’

These Hadiths, in addition to what the Qur’an says, expose and emphasize how much Muhammad hated and opposed the cross and how he insisted that Isa was and will die as a Muslim.

F) Abu Jaafar said: As it is known, if Allah (to him belong might and majesty) had caused Isa (Jesus) to die he would not cause him to die again, so he dies twice, because Allah (to him belong might and majesty) had told people that he creates them, causes them to die and then will revive them.

In conclusion, Christ’s life on earth, according to the Qur’an, ended with his "taking" [wafat], which means also his "raising" to heaven. As if the two actions "taking" and "raising" are the same. That was emphasized by ibn Zaid's interpretation, 'taking you' and 'raising you' are the same. However, interpretations of 'taking' vary. Some consider 'taking' as sleep and others consider it as death for a few hours. Another interpretation, based on Hadith, says that “taking” [wafat] does not mean death.

2. Death will "take" [yatawaffa] women who committed adultery: “Such of your women as commit indecency, call four of you to witness against them; and if they witness, then detain them in their houses until death takes them…” (Q.4:15, Arberry) (According to) Tabari 6989, Mohammad b. Amro told me, seconded by Abou Asem, reported by Ibn Abi Najih, reported by Mujahed about His saying: “Such women who committed adultery” he had commanded that if four witness against them, those women are to be detained in their houses until death takes them. Death according to this verse is the factor in “taking” [al-wafat].

3. Allah’s messengers are the ones who "take" people. “He is the Omnipotent over His servants. He sends recorders over you till, when any one of you is visited by death, Our messengers take him and they neglect not,” (Q. 6:61, Arberry) (According to) Tabari 10 383, Your Lord shall keep you until death comes to you by God’s decree. If death comes to one of you, our angels, responsible for "taking" souls, will "take" him. Notice here that this verse speaks about two different things, the coming of death to a man and "taking" him by God’s messengers/angels.

4. Allah takes souls of men at death: “It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect.” (Q. 39:42, Yusuf Ali)

(According to) Tabari 23231, Mohammad b. Husein said: seconded by Ahmad b.Al-Mufadhal, he said, seconded by Asbat from As-sadii, commenting on His saying, “It is Allah that takes souls of men at death.” He said, the spirits will be collected while man is in his sleep; so spirits meet together: spirits of the dead and spirits of the sleeping, they will be questioned, He will release the spirits of the living, so they return to their bodies, the other spirits want to return also, but He will withhold that which He has decreed to death, and will send the other till a stated term. This verse raises some questions: Has Allah been taking souls of the dead and souls of those in their sleep since the beginning of creation, and till now? What is God’s purpose in taking the souls in its sleep? Do dead souls remain with God, without being called to give account to Him, regardless of their behavior before they died? Did Jesus’ “taking” [wafat] occur at his death like other humans’ “taking” [wafat]? How does this agree with the belief that Jesus is alive in heaven?

The previous verses give different views regarding "death" [al-mowt] and "taking" or "gathering" [wafat]. We notice that the cause of "gathering" or "taking" is Allah (Q. 3:55; 39:42) or Allah’s messengers (Q. 6:61) or death (Q. 4:15). It is noteworthy also according to Tabari’s comment on (Q. 3:55) that death and "taking" or "gathering", are the same. They are two different things in other verses: (Q. 15:4, 61:6). Thus gathering or "taking" [wafat] occurs at the coming of death (Q. 6:61).

Finally, it is noteworthy that Q. 3:55 avoids mentioning the word “death” while all the other verses that we considered mention it along with the verb “take”. Doesn’t this look strange? Is the hidden purpose beyond that to avoid acknowledging that Christ died indeed, and his death does not allow any suspicions or false interpretations that came in the Qur’an and its commentaries? It could be said objectively that the discussion of the previous verses did not allow us to come up with any convincing result regarding the end of Jesus’ earthly life, as stated in Q. 3:55.

Secondly, the reality and universality of death: The reality and universality of death is a fact no one can deny. It is also supported by three Qur’anic verses, “Every soul shall taste of death” (Q. 3:185; Arberry, see also 29:57; 21:35). According to Tabari’s comment on this verse, “’Every soul of God’s creatures will suffer the pains of death, and its bitter cup.’ It means that every soul will end by death.”

Since Christ was a man like Adam as stated in the Qur’an, “Truly, the likeness of Isa (Jesus), in God’s sight, is as Adam's likeness” (Q. 3:59, Arberry) [although he actually is the God-man], therefore, his soul would taste of death like every human soul. As Adam died real death, so also Jesus died real death.

Thirdly, Christ and Yahya (John the Baptist): Comparing two other Qur’anic verses leads to the conclusion that Christ died as stated by the Gospels.

The first verse points to Yahya (John the Baptist): “Peace be upon him, the day he was born, and the day he dies and the day he is raised up alive!” (Q.19:15, Arberry)

The second verse points to Christ: “Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised up alive!” (Q. 19:32, Arberry)

Notice that this verse differentiates between Jesus’ death and his being raised up (in contrast with “taken up”, Q. 3:55 which is ambiguous).

The two verses (Q. 19:15, 19:32) demonstrate the similarity between Isa (Christ) and Yahya (John the Baptist) regarding their death; but there is a clear contrast between the two regarding their birth and resurrection. Yahya (John the Baptist) was born of a human father and a human mother; but Isa (Jesus) was born of the Virgin Mary who had not known a man, but was conceived by the Holy Spirit as illustrated in the Qur’an (Q. 21:91; 66:12) and the Gospels according to Matthew (Mt. 1:20) and Luke (Lk. 1:35). There is also a contrast between Yahya (John the Baptist) and Isa (Jesus) regarding resurrection. John will be raised from the dead in the last day like all men. But Isa (Jesus) rose again from the dead the third day after his crucifixion and burial. Then he ascended to heaven as told by the gospels. He will come again to judge the living and the dead as written in the books of the New Testament. We will refer to these facts later.

The conclusion we reached at the end of our discussion of the three main points is the following: what the Qur’an and its commentators presented is just an ambiguous hypothesis far beyond logic or reality. This reality is found only in the Bible, and we will consider it in the second part of our article.

What the Bible says about the end of Jesus’ life on earth:

A) Jesus affirmed the reality of his death for the first time during his conversation with his disciples near Caesarea Philippi. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16) That was a truth revealed to Peter by God. However, Jesus wanted his disciples to know also another important truth about him: that is his redemptive work for which he came to the world. Therefore he told them about what will happen to him in the future, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22) Then he emphasized the importance of that work when he said to them, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45)

Jesus used to designate himself as “the son of man” according to the prophecy of Daniel (7:13), “The son of man” was Jesus' favorite self-designation, indicating the true meaning of his identity and ministry: (1) the humble servant who has come to forgive common sinners (cf. Matt. 9:6); (2) the suffering servant whose atoning death and resurrection will redeem his people (16:13, 27-28); and (3) the glorious King and Judge who will return to establish God's kingdom on earth (25:31; 26:64). [ESV notes]

B) Jesus mentioned how his death will take place, to Nicodemus, who was a ruler of the Jews, i.e. one of the law teachers. Jesus said to him: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14; see John 6:38-40) This is the first of three sayings by Jesus (cf. John 8:24; 12:32) All three sayings speak of the future “lifting up” of the Son of Man in a typical Johannine double meaning, so that it refers to both Jesus' death and his resurrection and his exaltation to glory in heaven (cf. Acts 2:33; 5:31).

In order to understand the first meaning of "lifted up" we must go to the Old Testament, where we read the story of lifting the serpent. There we read what the serpent was and when and why Moses lifted the serpent. We find the answers in the book of Numbers. There we read: “From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.' Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.' So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.' So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (Numbers 21:4-9)

This event demonstrates that grumbling is the result of doubt; it is a sin in God’s sight, that requires punishment. God’s people are expected to thank God in all circumstances because they believe that whatever God gives them is the best for them. Grumbling is contrary to faith. Therefore God used the brass serpent as a stimulus to faith. In reality the brass serpent does not have any power for healing. But looking at it, by faith in God’s sovereignty, releases God’s healing power.

So the brass serpent was a symbol of a much greater object that is Jesus when he will be lifted up on the cross. This is what Jesus meant in his conversation with Nicodemus. As looking by faith to the brass serpent guaranteed healing from physical death, so looking by faith to Jesus lifted up on the cross would guarantee the salvation from eternal death. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14)

Jesus used the verb “must” to emphasize the necessity of lifting up the “Son of Man” on the cross. That was for two reasons: First, Jesus wanted to fulfill his mission, which was to save sinners, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) and to reconcile them to God, as Paul stated in Romans, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). Jesus knew that his death on the cross is the only effective atonement for sin. He offered himself out of love for sinners, “… Jesus Christ … loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5)

Jesus did that voluntarily, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18; see 13:1; 15:9) The crucifixion of Jesus did not happen accidently or by coercion, but by Jesus’ own willingness. This was demonstrated by the fact that when the soldiers came to arrest him, “… one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?’” (Matthew 26:53) and he said also to Peter: “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” so the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus (John 18:12).

Jesus was capable of hiding himself as he did at his heated discussion with the Jews, when he told them that he had existed even before Abraham, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:58-59). He hid himself again after he had referred to his being lifted up from the earth as the one and only means that provides salvation of men, “When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” (John 12:36; notice also 12:24-36)

Jesus knew what would happen to him and was willing to accept it. All the above references from the gospels negate the possibility of Jesus’ being lifted up from the earth in a mysterious way as in the false claim of the Qur'anic verse (3:55) and its interpretations. In fact, he was lifted up on the cross because he was the true Lamb of God as John the Baptist declared, when he saw Jesus coming toward him: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John1:29)

Jesus knew also that “the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God” (John 13:3). In his conversation with his disciples, while he was explaining to them the meaning of real greatness, he emphasized his mission again; he said to them, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) Thus whoever believes in him will be saved from the penalty of sin which is eternal death, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

The second reason for using the verb must with the verb “lifted up” was the intention of Jesus to emphasize the fact that his “lifting up” on the cross would be according to the will of the Father as he said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:38-39) Jesus was not lifted up in an ambiguous manner as suggested by the Qur’an, neither was it a smart plan produced by God’s plotting [makr] which exceeded the plotting of the Jews as the author of the Qur’an claimed. It says that the Jews would have almost killed Jesus because they did not believe him. But God’s plotting [makr] prevented them from fulfilling their plan by lifting Jesus to heaven (Q. 3:55)

Moreover, the “lifting up” of Jesus on the cross was appointed by the Father, as Peter told the Jewish crowd at Pentecost, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23)

But the Qur'an – as we mentioned before – denied this historical fact, by saying: “… Yet they did not slay him (the Messiah), neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them.” (Q. 4:157)

Why did God purpose the death of Christ? He did that because of his love for men, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The death of Jesus on the cross as an atonement for the sins of men was provided by God’s wisdom since eternity, “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:7) Paul preached Christ crucified in spite of the attitude of both Jews and Gentiles. “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)

What emphasizes that divine purpose even before the incarnation of God’s Son is what was written in Old Testament’s prophecies, like the prophesy of the prophet Isaiah 600 years before Christ, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions … Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10; see Luke 24:25-27; Acts 10:38-43; Psalms 16:9-11; 22:1, 16, 18; 31:5, 11; 35:11; 69:21; Zechariah 13:7b)

The above Biblical verses demonstrate that the crucifixion of Jesus to redeem men was a historical, glorious fact ordained by God. But the author of the Qur’an denied and opposed it (Q. 3:55; 4:157).

This attempt by the Qur’an was not the first denial of the crucifixion. It was preceded by two other attempts to prevent the crucifixion of Jesus: the first was done by Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples; the second was done by those who passed by the cross of Jesus. Peter tried to prevent Jesus from going to the cross because he was hoping that Jesus would be the national hero who would deliver Israel from the occupying Romans. So when Jesus told his disciples about his sufferings by the leaders of the Jews and his death, Peter rebuked him, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (Matthew 16:21-23) Jesus meant by his reproach to Peter that the devil moved Peter to object to Jesus’ crucifixion.

The devil made his second attempt to prevent the crucifixion from achieving its purpose when he motivated those who passed by the cross to address Jesus and advise him to get down off the cross, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘you who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’” (Matthew 27:39-40) Yet all the attempts of the devil to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion failed.

God did not use his plotting [makr] (God forbid that he is a plotter) as the Qur’an claimed (Q. 3:55; 4:157); but he used his wisdom which achieved at the same time his justice that requires the punishment of sinners and his love which wants to save them. Therefore he provided, out of his amazing grace, the substitutionary death of his son on the cross to bear the punishment of our sins and grant eternal life to whoever believes in him.

As Jesus predicted his crucifixion, he also predicted his resurrection. He referred to it metaphorically for the first time when he answered the Jews after his cleansing the temple from the money-changers and those who were selling animals that would be offered as sacrifices in the temple (John 2:13-17). They asked him to do a sign that justified his action; so he answered them metaphorically referring to his crucifixion and resurrection, “So the Jews said to him, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:18-22)

In a later stage of his ministry when he spoke openly about his death, as we mentioned above, he also pointed to his resurrection. (Matthew 16:21)

Jesus rose indeed triumphing over death, as the angel told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when they came to the tomb, “But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead…’” (Matthew 28:5-7)

Jesus’ resurrection was evidenced to a great number of disciples, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days.” (Acts 1:3) He appeared first to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-16), then to the disciples twice (John 20:20-23, 26-29.) He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27). He appeared also to seven of them at the lake of Tiberius (John 21:1-14) Finally, he appeared to 500 brothers. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

On one occasion when he appeared to a group of disciples, “Jesus stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be to you.’ They were startled and frightened thinking that they saw a spirit.” (Luke 24:36-37.) Jesus wanted to remove from their minds every doubt regarding his bodily resurrection; “so he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:38-40) Then he gave them another evidence, “… while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” (Luke 24:41-44)

We pointed above to Jesus’ three sayings in the gospel of John (3:14; 8:28; 12:32) which referred to his being “Lifted up.” We said that those sayings pointed to two things: first his being “lifted upon the cross, and that happened to him in fact, as we discussed in detail; then secondly, they pointed to his being “lifted up” to heaven, which we will talk about now.

During his last conversation with the disciples, before his crucifixion, Jesus had pointed to his being lifted up to heaven, “I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.”(John 16:10; see also 13:1-3) He also had mentioned his departure in his intercessory prayer for the disciples; he said, addressing his heavenly Father: “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.” (John 17:6-11) In fact Jesus was lifted up to heaven, as the disciples watched him; “… as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:9-11; see also Luke 24:50-52)

His ascension to heaven was mentioned in other Scriptures e.g., “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19; see also Hebrews 1:3)

Jesus’ presence in heaven is another glorious fact attested by Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He had rebuked the leaders of the Jews and the crowd of Jews because of their resistance to the Holy Spirit and their hostile attitude to Jesus, “So they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him; but he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:54-56; see also Hebrews 1:3)

As Jesus told his disciples about his death and resurrection, he also told them that he will come again and take them to be with him, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

Mohammad described in details the features of Christ when he will return as reported in the Hadith. (According to) Tabari 5632, Ibn Humayd reported to us, he said: seconded by Salamah, from ibn Ishaq, from al-Hassan b. Dinar, from Qatada, from Abdul Rahman b. Adam, from Abi-Hurira, that he said, that the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “Prophets are brothers for various causes... I have the closest relationship to Isa b. Mariam, … He is my successor who would rule my Ummah. He is going to come down; if you would see him recognize him, he is a man of medium height, his face is reddish-whitish; his hair is long and flowing as if it is overflowing, though it did not get wet …”

Interestingly, the authors of the Gospels followed Jesus, ate and drank with him; but no one of them presented a description of Jesus’ features. But Muhammad who lived 600 years after Christ spoke in detail about that. One would ask how did Mohammad know what he said about those features of Jesus?

The Bible presented a detailed and clear picture of Jesus’ return. Many times Jesus mentioned to his disciples that he will return. After he had told them about his crucifixion and resurrection he told them that he will return, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:27)

In his Farewell Discourse with the disciples mentioned earlier (John 13:1-3), he calmed them down and told them about his ascension and about his return. “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

Jesus mentioned his return also before the high priest at his trial by the scribes, elders and the synagogue, “Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matthew 26:64)

While Jesus was lifted up, two angels assured the disciples of his return. That was at the end of his last discourse with the disciples. “As they were looking on him “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:9-11) Paul also mentioned Jesus’ return. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

Jesus second coming will be a unique universal event witnessed by all, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” (Revelation 1:7) [Most scholars think the wailing is a reaction to judgment instead of the kind of grief that leads to salvation. ESV notes] Thus, Jesus’ return is a reality clearly emphasized by the Holy Bible.

Mohammad talked about the return of Christ, as we pointed out above. And he mentioned what Christ will do. This is briefly what Mohammad said, according to one of his Hadiths, (According to) Tabari 5632, ‘Christ is coming down … to crush the cross, kill the swine, impose Jizya and advocate Islam for forty years. Then he will die, and Muslims pray over him and bury him.’”

In another Hadith, Christ will do two more things according to Tabari 5631, “Ibn Humayd reported to us, he said, seconded by Salamah from ibn Ishaq, from Muhammad b. Muslim Al-Zuhri, from Hanzalah b. Ali Al-aslami, from Abi Hurira, that he said: ‘I heard Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) saying: Allah will bring down Isa b. Mariam a fair judge and an upright Imam.’” What was the implied goal of these two Hadiths? Was it to claim that Christ should come to show his submission to the prophet of Islam and to obey his laws and plans? But how far from truth was Mohammad’s imagination regarding the work of Christ when he returns!

In fact, Jesus had told his disciples what he will do when he returns at the end of time: “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:27) Paul also referred to this fact when he wrote, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:31-34)

Paul referred also to this fact in his address to the intellectuals of Athens at the Areopagus. He told them that the true God created the world and all that is within. Then he went on to tell them about the role that Jesus would play on the world stage at the end of time. He said to them that, “God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

The Bible states the work that Jesus will do at his return. That work is related to both his death for the sins of the world and his resurrection. Therefore God gave him a unique privilege, which is to judge the living and the dead. Jesus said, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him… For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” (John 22-23, 26-27)

Paul’s great passage from his Epistle to the Philippians is an excellent conclusion which demonstrates the greatness of the person of Christ and his unique past and future work.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)