Question: It’s mentioned that Jesus(pbuh) will return to earth before the end of the world. Will Jesus descend from the sky, or will his spirit appear into a man in the world?
According to the Qur’an, Jesus (pbuh) is not alive. Allah has caused him to die. Allah the Almighty says:
اِذْ قَالَ اللّٰهُ يَا ع۪يسٰىۤ اِنّ۪ي مُتَوَفّ۪يكَ وَرَافِعُكَ اِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذ۪ينَ كَفَرُوا وَجَاعِلُ الَّذ۪ينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذ۪ينَ كَفَرُوۤا اِلٰى يَوْمِ الْقِيٰمَةِ ثُمَّ اِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَاَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ ف۪يمَا كُنْتُمْ ف۪يهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ
“Once Allah said: “O Jesus, I am the One to take your soul  and raise you up to Me.  And I am the One to purify you of those who ignore (the truth) and make those who follow you superior to those who ignore till the Day of Rising. Then you all will be returned to Me (being resurrected) and I will judge between you regarding all on which you have differed.” (Al-e Imran/Family of Imran 3:55)
Below is a part of Jesus’s talk with God in the afterlife:
مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ اِلَّا مَاۤ اَمَرْتَن۪ي بِه۪ۤ اَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللّٰهَ رَبّ۪ي وَرَبَّكُمْ وَكُنْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَه۪يدًا مَا دُمْتُ ف۪يهِمْ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَن۪ي كُنْتَ اَنْتَ الرَّق۪يبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَاَنْتَ عَلٰى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَه۪يدٌ
“(Jesus says) I told them what You commanded to me: Be the servants of Allah, my Master, and your Master. I was the witness of them as long as I was among them. After You took my soul, they were under only Your observation. You are the witness of all things.” (Al-Maidah/The Feast 5:117)
Most of the Islamic scholars claimed that Jesus (pbuh) did not die, by regarding the “I am …to raise you up to Me” part of the verse as evidence to it. According to them, God raised Jesus to a private abode in incorporeal heavens, and He will send him back before the Last Day. The two verses above, however, clearly state that Jesus died. Furthermore, in the first two verses, the expression “I am the One to raise you up to Me” comes before “I am the One to take your soul“. As understood from this verse, God caused Jesus to die and took his soul to His level.
There are narrations, allegedly hadeeth, which state that Jesus will return to earth before the Last Day. One of them is the following:
“By whom my soul is in his hand, soon, the Son of Mary (Jesus) will come down to be among you as a just Judge. He will break the cross, kill the pig, and abolish the Jizya (tax on Christians & Jews because Christianity and Judaism will end). There will be surplus in Wealth (and money) to the extent that no one will accept it (if you want to give charity) and a single prostration (to God) will be better than the World and all that is in it” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 50; Muslim, Iman, 71; Tirmidhi, Fitan, 54).
When we analyze this and similar narrations, we see the common theme that Jesus or Mahdi will come to earth and save Muslims from their sufferings in crisis. Another narration about that situation is: “Like the cup fills with water, so will the Earth fill with peace” (Ibn Majah, Fitan, 33).
Notice that, none of the actions Jesus allegedly will take when he returns, such as, breaking the cross, killing the pig and abolishing jizya are of the good deeds mentioned in the Quran. Indeed, they have no room in religion.
Many Islamic scholars have regarded these narrations as sound (saheeh) just because they reside in Kutub al-Sittah. The respect shown to the authors of these works has constituted an obstacle to making a critique of these narrations. Even though the chains of narrators to this kind of narrations are sound, their contents do not comply with the Quran. As for this case, Allah the Almighty states that messengers are people who warn people and give glad tidings to them:
“You are nothing but a warner. We have sent you with this truth (Quran) so that you may give glad tidings and warn (people). There is no community unless a warner has passed among them” (Fatir 35:23-24)
“If they turn away (let them turn), We have not sent you as a guardian over them. Your duty is delivering (the message) only.” (Shura 42:48)
“Had your Master preferred so, everyone on earth would believe altogether. Then, is it you who would coerce people to become believers?” (Yunus, 10/99)
Believing in the return of Jesus before the Day of Judgment was made a matter of faith in Islam, although the narrations about his return are all “khabar ahad (singular narration)”. The scholars who allege that Jesus will return, however, are the very same scholars who decree that faith cannot be based on “khabar ahad”.
In conclusion, Muslims should give up expecting Jesus to return and save the world. Rather, they should work hard to learn Islam from its original source, the Qur’an; and preach it to every human being, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, thus causing the salvation of mankind.
Allah the Almighty thereof decrees:
“God does not change what is in a community until they change what is in themselves.” (Ra’d 13:11)
“Indeed, there is nothing for mankind other than that for which he makes effort.” (Najm 53:39)