After radio preacher Harold Camping wrongly predicted the rapture on May 21, this billboard appeared along highways. Matthew 24:36 tells us that no one can predict the day or hour. If the Father didn't tell Jesus when it would be, why would He tell Harold Camping?
This false prophecy by Camping has made the rapture a big joke on the Internet and by late night comedians. But the fact is, the rapture IS are real event that's going to happen some day. First Thessalonians 4:16-17 says, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout...the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." The words "caught up" in the Latin Vulgate is "rapturo" which is where we get the word rapture. The Greek word means "to rapidly snatch up."
Jesus will come in the air to receive His Church to Himself and take us to heaven. He will not return to Earth at this time. John 14:3 says, "And if I go [to heaven] and prepare a place for you [in heaven], I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am [in heaven], there you many be also [in heaven]." The rapture is when He takes His Church to heaven, but the Second Coming is when we return with Him at a later time to Earth.
First Corinthians 15:52 says it will happen "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." The Greek word for "moment" is atomos (where we get the word atom) and means "an indivisible unit." It will happen so quickly that it will appear to the unbelievers who have been left behind as if all Christians have disappeared.
To understand five differences between the rapture and second coming, go to http://www.churchoflivingwater.net/node/23 and click on "Rapture vs. Second Coming"