Thank you, my dear friend, for your good question! I think many have wondered about this. I think I see a distinction between “stories,” or “parables” and actual Scriptural accounts. A “real-life event” thus would be the Scriptural account of something that actually happened, and the Scriptures outline this just as it happened. A nice example might be Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, and also Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, both found in Acts 8. I shrink from calling these “stories,” because they are both “real-life events” which are recorded accounts of what actually happened at a certain specific time in history, with real people that we can identify.

The parable, or “story,” is just as you have described above, “earthly stories with heavenly meanings”. I believe parables to be instructive stories, not real-life accounts of an actual happening, but none-the-less absolutely true since they are based upon true Scriptural principles. Therefore, the individual characters of a parable are generally not specific to any particular person or event in history; however, the spiritual teaching or principle identified is quite true and without error like any other Bible verses. In the Moorish Bible dictionary on “parables,” we read: “From the fact of the Lord connecting ‘the mysteries of the kingdom’ with the parables He uttered, we may be sure that there is much instruction to be gathered from them if rightly interpreted: they need the teaching of the Spirit of God as much as any other part of scripture.”

So, why use parables for those in Israel at the time of the Lord Jesus? The Lord Jesus Himself gives the answer in Matthew 13:13-15: “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” In these verses, the Lord’s statement in verse 15 may seem a bit arbitrary, but Mac Donald in his Bible Commentary on Mathew 13 explains as follows: “The parables would be revealed to those who were sincerely interested but would prove “only an irritation to those who were hostile to Jesus”. Going on in MacDonald’s explanation of Matthew 13:14-15: “They were a living fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9, 10. Israel’s heart had grown dull and their ears were insensitive to the voice of God. They deliberately refused to see with their eyes. They knew that if they saw, heard, understood, and repented, God would heal them. But in their sickness and need, they refused His help. Therefore, their punishment was that they would hear but not understand and see but not perceive”.

So, in short, I believe that the parables of Christ Jesus are not “real-life accounts per se,” but rather they are stories created to teach a point or to explain an aspect of the Kingdom of God, which those in Israel could only learn if they had “ears to hear”, which many in Israel did not have-they rejected their Lord as we read in John 1:11. Thus, the stories themselves were created based on Biblical truths for the specific teaching intended for the occasion, but the Scriptural teaching or principles are quite as true as any other portion of Scripture.  Does that make sense? Please let me know if I can help further.  (SF)  (536.1)