When Christ was on earth, He spoke in parables and “without a parable spake He not unto them” (Mark 4:34). Sometimes Jesus told the people He was telling a parable. At other times, He simply told a story and from the setting in the Bible we know it was a parable. For example, frequently He would begin a story or a declaration with the words “the kingdom of heaven is like.” When He used these introductory words He was teaching with a parable.
A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. That is, a parable is a story or illustration taken from the secular world, but the application relates to some aspect of salvation. It might teach some aspect of Christ’s death or resurrection; it might relate to faith in the life of the believer; it might emphasize the sending forth of the Gospel; it might point to Judgment Day.
In the Old Testament, this teaching method was used extensively; for example, in the types and shadows God employed in the ceremonial laws which outline worship activities and in the civil laws which governed much of the Israelites’ civil pursuits.
These laws are called “ceremonial laws” by theologians because on the earthly, physical level they were to be rigorously obeyed by the nation of Israel.
After Christ had hung on the cross, the physical aspect of these laws was no longer to be obeyed. Now only the heavenly meaning inherent within these laws is to continue. When Christ hung on the cross the great curtain that separated the holy of holies from the holy place was torn apart from top to bottom by the finger of God. This signaled the end of the literal, physical keeping of the ceremonial laws. From that time forward the eyes of believers are to be focused only on the spiritual teachings set forth in the ceremonial laws as opposed to the literal, physical keeping of the ceremonial laws.
In fact, when the New Testament church met together to decide which of the ceremonial laws were to be obeyed by saved Gentiles, they concluded in Acts 15:28-29:
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things,. That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
These laws were to be obeyed by Israel literally, as earthly experiences, but they were to realize that the earthly event was only a shadow or type of some aspect of God’s salvation. In Colossians 2:16-17, God emphasizes this principle: “‘Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.”
Taken From: (What God Hath Joined Together), pp.1-2