About the Verse in Surat al-I'mran (3:55) ibn Kathir (see also in qtafsir) quotes in his tafsir a lot of different interpretations among them:
- that the taking life and raising are just revealed in reverse order (by Qatada)
- it is life taking (by Ali ibn abi Talha from ibn A'bass may Allah be pleased with them)
- a life taking (death) for a couple of hours/days quoting the number of each (by ibn Ishaq from different narrators)
- Most interpretators said that the life taking or death means: sleep as Allah says in Surat al-Ana'am (6:60)
And it is He who takes your souls by night and knows what you have
committed by day. Then He revives you therein that a specified term
may be fulfilled. Then to Him will be your return; then He will inform
you about what you used to do.
and in Surat az-Zumar (39:42)
Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that do
not die [He takes] during their sleep. Then He keeps those for which
He has decreed death and releases the others for a specified term.
Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.
And the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to thank Allah for giving him life after taking it (known dua'), when he woke up!
And they quoted also as an evidence the following Verses:
And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah,
Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not
kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to
resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in
doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of
assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.(157) Rather,
Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.(158)
[Surat an-Nissa' (4:157-158)]
And ibn Kathir added a Hadith (marfu') to al Hassan al-Basry that the Prophet (peace be upon him) told the Jews: "I'ssa didn't die, and he will return to you before yawm al-Qiyama"
Imam at-Tabari added an other interpretation that Allah used is grabbing/holding = قابِض which means Allah is raising (alive) him from Earth and holding him close to his closeness and raising him from the Mushrikyn and Kufar. And he added a lot of narrations on the authority a sahabi like ibn az-Zubair and Ka'b al-Ahbar or some Tabi'yn like al-Hassan al-Basri.
Ibn 'Ashur in his tafsir however says the clear meaning of متوفيك is the apparent meaning taking his life (leaving him die or determined a time of death for him) while Arabs use it figuratively when speaking about sleep. 'Isa being (really) dead is the view held by ibn 'Abbas, and Wahb ibn Munabbih and also imam Malik who said he died at the age of 31, ibn Rushd (the grandfather) in his al-Bayan wa-Tahssil البيان والتحصيل said: he died at the age of 33 a real death not a figurative one.
He also said that pretending that "taking life" here refers to lifting it from this world is a creation of a new meaning in the Arabic language without any evidence. He also quoted the other interpretations saying that many of these interpretations are based on sahih ahadith saying that 'Isa will come back before Judgement day, but it is possible that Allah will give him a new life or return his life to him, some of these interpretations gave a duration for his death and his resurrection (like 3 hours then he lifted him to HIM in the heavens to give resurrect him -also an interpretation of Wahb ibn Munabbih- or 7 hours etc.) while ibn 'Abbas and Malik refused to give a duration nor explain how this resurrection or how to reconcile with their interpretation of death and the ahadith prophesizing his come back. He also pointed and commented the hadith which was compiled in sahih Muslim saying this may mean that 'Isa will not die again and will be lifted directly to al-Akhirah and ahaidth quoting the differences between the life of souls like in here sahih Muslim.