"And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2 Kings 2:11)
This remarkable event--the translation of Elijah alive into heaven, without dying--was altogether miraculous, but it really happened! Among other things, it assures us that heaven is a real place in this created universe, for Elijah is still there in his physical body, still alive, to this very day.
The prophet Enoch, who had also served God in a time of deep apostasy, had likewise been taken into heaven without dying (that is, into the "third heaven," beyond the starry heaven, where God's throne is), as recorded in Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5. Enoch's prophecies, addressed to the entire world of mankind, were given at approximately the midpoint of the period from Adam to Abraham, whereas those of Elijah, addressed only to Israel, were given at essentially the midpoint of the time from Abraham to Christ. Both were caught up alive into heaven before their ministries were finished. It is possible that they will return again to earth as God's "two witnesses" who will prophesy to both Jews and Gentiles in the last days (note Malachi 4:5-6; Revelation 11:3-12), then finally to be slain and resurrected.
In any case, there will also be one entire generation of believers who will--like Enoch and Elijah--be caught up alive into heaven. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven . . . and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
This could very well be our generation! And "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). HMM