The concept of a person being lifted up and carried away by the Holy Spirit is found throughout the Bible. (Please see Where Did the Word "Rapture" Come From?) When Elijah was taken up to Heaven, the prophets that witnessed the event thought that he may have been taken somewhere else on earth (II Kings 2:11-16). This shows that the concept was not foreign to them. A New Testament example that we frequently overlook is the Spirit carrying Phillip away to a distant city after he had immersed the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35-40).
The various instances of the Spirit lifting or snatching people up show a pattern. Phillip was lifted up after his ministry to the Ethiopian eunuch. Elijah was lifted up after the completion of his ministry. When Jesus was lifted up, it was after His 3 ˝ year ministry. Paul implies that the Church will be here "until the full number of Gentiles has come in." (Romans 11:25) The first mention of the prophet Ezekiel being lifted up was to go to the Throne of God. When Christian believers are lifted up, I believe we will be carried to the Throne of God.
There is some confusion regarding the Rapture and the Lord’s Return. (Please see Why Is the Rapture Not Taught by Most Denominations?) The Rapture is described as the Church meeting Jesus in the air. The Lord's Return will be on earth with great triumph.
Paul portrays the Rapture as a mystery. In his descriptions in 1 Corinthians 15:35-53 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul includes no indication of the great Coming of the Lord Jesus with power and glory. He simply states that we will meet the Lord in the air. The scriptures indicate that the Rapture and the Lord's Return are two different events.
The Revelation 19:11-16 depicts Jesus coming in great authority and majesty as King of kings and Lord of lords. There may be some people in remote areas that are not aware of the terrorist destruction of September 11, 2001, but everyone will know when Jesus returns. Jesus says every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess to God. (Romans 14:11) This will not be a secret or mysterious event.
The church at Thessalonika was concerned because they had been told that they missed the coming of the Lord for His church, and "our being gathered up to Him" (the Rapture). (2 Thessalonians 2:1) It is interesting that in one of the earliest New Testament books, the church was already looking forward to the Coming of the Lord. Paul asks them to not become alarmed because of a letter supposedly from him. Obviously, the church thought they had missed the Rapture, because no one will miss the Return of Jesus! His Return is an event that you will not be able to disregard. The Thessalonians could not have missed the Return of the Lord, so they must have thought that they had missed the Rapture. Apparently, they were taught by Paul that the Rapture and the Return of the Lord Jesus were two separate events.
Paul says the Rapture is the blessed hope of the church. (Titus 2:13) “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20 - King James Version)