When Rusticus was prefect of Rome (163-167 AD), Justin and some other Christians were brought before him. They were told to “obey the gods and submit to the kings.” The prefect questioned Justin and the others about their beliefs. He concluded, “Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods.” They refused and were threatened with death. They refused again and the sentenced was passed. They were whipped and then beheaded. From that time forward Justin has been known as Justin Martyr. (The full account of the trial is contained in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, page 305-306.)
Justin was born in Flavia Neapolis around the year 100 AD. The city was known as Shechem during the biblical period and as Nablus today. After the suppression of the Jewish rebellion and his ascent to the imperial throne Vespasian founded the city in 72 AD. Justin called himself a Gentile and his father had a Latin name. Is it likely that his family came to the city soon after its founding to be part of the administration of Judea after the rebellion. The fact that he was beheaded means that he was probably a Roman citizen.
Justin described his journey to Christ in his Dialogue with Trypho, (sections 2-8). He was taught in the various philosophical schools of his day. He found no answer to his questions about the immaterial things of life. He then met an old man as he walked in a field near the sea. The old man reasoned with him about the truth of Christianity on the basis of fulfilled prophecies. (Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1, page 195-199)
After being convinced of the truth of Christianity he lived the rest of his life as a writer and teacher. He reached out to the educated elite. He settled in Rome and it was there that he was beheaded. Crescens, a pagan philosopher with whom he debated, complained about him to the authorities. This led to his execution.
Is There a Right Way to Come to Jesus?
Justin’s path to Christ went through many worldviews and he finally came, as a committed seeker, to the truth. I know people who came to Christ the first time they heard the Gospel with no previous religious pilgrimage that they came remember. I know some who had long struggles before their conversion.
Jesus taught about this in the parables of Matthew, chapter thirteen. In the events recorded near the end of chapter twelve, the religious leaders conclude that Jesus did His miracles by working with the devil. His disciples must have wondered how the Messianic Kingdom was to come if the religious leaders did not accept Jesus’ claims. (Matthew 12:22-37)
Jesus taught four pairs of parables about the Kingdom in chapter thirteen. The third pair is about how people will come to His Kingdom. A man comes upon a treasure in a field. There is no search for it. He saw the treasure and sold everything to buy the field and the treasure. The pearl merchant is looking for the fine pearls. He knows pearls and is looking for the best. He finds it and sells everything he has and buys the finest pearl, the Kingdom. Both sell all and get the Kingdom. One is looking and one isn’t. One rejects lesser pearls for the best one. One stumbles on the treasure. Both sell everything.. (Matthew 13:44-46)
There are two different paths to the kingdom. Both are real