The rapture refers to a group of Christians, known as the Bride of Christ, leaving the earth, in their transformed, bodies, whilst alive, to go to Heaven, in order to be the bride at the Marriage of the Lamb.
It is not spelled out in detail in the Bible, but we have quite a few scriptures which hints at it, and there are many stories and prophecies out of which we can learn about it.
And it starts quite early in the Bible, because this is what the Bible is really all about. Adam is created by God, and God prepares a bride for him, out of his own body. God creates mankind and prepares a nation, Israel, out of them, to be His wife - whom He has divorced subsequently. Lastly God creates His Church on earth, from which he prepares a bride for His Son. The same theme goes on and on, especially when you read the numerous Bible stories related to a wedding.
Let us first look at the scriptures dealing directly with this.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: v:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1Co 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. v:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. v:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
The stories we can read to know more about this rapture are :
The story in Genesis 24 where Abraham (a type for the Father, God), sends his servant Eliezer (a type for the Holy Spirit) to a faraway land where his kindred lives (a type for Earth), to prepare and bring Rebekah (a type for the Bride of Christ), home (a type for Heaven), to be married to his son Isaac (a type for Jesus Christ).
There are quite a few things in this story that we have to note:
Her blessing : Gen 24:60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them. It is clear that this blessing from Rebekah's brothers, does not look on her fleshly descendants, which can never be as much, but of her descendants as a type for the bride of Christ,
Her reception: Gen 24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. Jesus Christ will come (in the clouds) and meet us (in the air) at eventide.
The wedding at Cana.
In this story we have Jesus Himself playing out the prophecy. He attends a wedding at Cana, with His mother, and the host runs out of wine. He then turns the water into wine. What we need to look at here are the following:
Joh 2:1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. It was the third day, meaning that two days or thousand years have passed, so it must be the Marriage of the Lamb. This is borne out by His answer to His mother when she told her that there was no wine. He immediately retorted that : Joh 2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. He is already at that ultimate wedding in the spirit.
This was His first miracle - quite befitting His last goal.
We may also hear Himself speak about the rapture, whilst he was on earth:
Mat 24:37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. v:38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, v:39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. v:40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. v:41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. v:42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. v:43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. v:44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
I think it cannot be said more emphatically, and that is why it is said that He will be coming 'like a thief in the night'. No-one will expect Him or know when He came, but they will miss the 'stolen goods'.
Vision of the bride.
In Revelation we can see them gathered together:
Rev 14:1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. v:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: v:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. v:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. v:5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
In this piece 'defiled with women' means 'used by the Church' such as in persecuting people for not following the rules and dogma of the Church. This piece also talks about the first fruits. It means the first part of the crop which belongs to God such as in the first borns. We can see how well this is kept a secret which not even the angels know of, except that they expect the event:
Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. v:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
I am not an expert on the Hebrew culture and customs. There are people who are students of this, and you can do further reading on where they compare those customs with the words of Revelation. The groom goes away to prepare a house for his bride, returns to fetch her, introduces her to his father, marries her and returns to the waiting guests to celebrate the wedding feast. It is also reflected in the feasts of the Jews as set out in the Old Testament.
I conclude with the wedding.
The ten virgins are waiting for the Bridegroom and his Bride to return from the wedding feast:
Mat 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. v5:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. v:3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: v:4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. v:5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. v:6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. v:7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. v:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. v:9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. v:10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. v:11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. v:12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. v:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
and the words of Jesus Himself:
Mat 22:1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, v:2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, v:3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
Mat 22:11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: v:12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. v:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. v:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. v:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. v:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
We find the wedding song in Psalm 45, of which I only quote an abstract.
Psa 45:10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; v:11 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. v:12 And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour. v:13 The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. v:14 She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. v:15 With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king's palace. v:16 Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.
What I read here is that the children of the Messiah and the Bride will rule the universe.