2 Peter 3:9 is a favourite verse of mine, since while it's abused by Arminians to try to prove "unlimited atonement", when understood properly it is a very encouraging passage. And I think this verse is an excellent example of how Arminians poorly and improperly interpret Scripture, and a good example of proper exegesis when done right.
The Arminian Presentation
First, let's see the Arminian presentation:
God is "... not willing that any should perish ..."
They quote half a verse. Sometimes they'll rearrange Scripture like a ransom note created out of newspaper words, and include John 3:16, "God so loved the world, and is not willing that any should perish", as if God wrote it that way.
The Calvinist Presentation
2Pet. 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
One of the things people learn when interpreting the Bible in particular, or any text in general, is to note (1) the author, (2) the audience, (3) the context/topic, (4) the culture, etc.
This section of Peter's epistle is directed at a group called "beloved" (v.8), and "us-ward" (v.9). "Us-ward" refers to the first-person plural pronoun, a group of multiple people, of whom the speaker includes himself. This is in contrast to "them", third person plural. In this passage, the "them" is found in 2 Pet. 3:3-7, "scoffers" who are unbelievers, and are trying to dissuade believers:
2Pet. 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
So we have a "they" group in vv. 3-7, and a "we/us" group in vv. 8-9.
And it is the "us-ward" that v. 9 is speaking of:
2Pet. 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any [of us-ward] should perish, but that all [of us-ward] should come to repentance.
2 Pet. 3:9 is not a "universal" text. The SCOPE of vv. 8-9 is this "beloved/us-ward" group. And it says God is not willing for any of the "beloved" to perish. And that is perseverance of the saints. God is not willing for any of His people to perish. He WILL save all of His people. But Arminians have destroyed this passage as an encouragement that God WILL do as He promised, in order to try to instead twist it into a "universal atonement" teaching, which was never intended.
Who are the "Beloved"?
We see that the group in vv.8-9 is identified as "beloved", and "us-ward". Can we find out any other information on who this group is? Yes, we can. We read at the beginning of the chapter:
2Pet. 3:1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
Peter has written two epistles to "beloved".
This second one is 2 Peter.
The first one is 1 Peter, which we also have.
Who was 1 Peter written to?:
1Pet. 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
Peter was writing to "the elect".
The "beloved" are "the elect".
It is "the elect" whom "God is not willing for any to perish" (2 Pet. 3:9)
Day vs. Thousand Years
2Pet. 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Why did Peter write v.8? To Arminians, it seems like a throw-away verse, out of place, interrupting the message more than anything else. But consider this. We just saw in 2 Pet. 3:3-7 that there were "scoffers" bothering the Christians, saying, "Where is your Christ? Why hasn't He come yet? Are you sure He even really exists?" Why hasn't Christ come yet? It's a valid question.
But remember, Peter wrote his epistle almost 2000 years ago. To you and me, that's a LONG time. But to God, it's a drop in the bucket. There are people thinking or saying, "It's been so long! Why hasn't Christ come yet?" Butt consider this. You and I are God's elect. He chose us from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). If Christ had come during the time of Peter, we wouldn't have been part of it, since we hadn't been born yet. God has chosen to scatter His elect people throughout nations, and over time. And Christ's second coming is not going to happen until EVERY SINGLE ONE of His elect has come to salvation.
Why? Because God is NOT WILLING FOR ANY [of His elect, His "beloved", His "us-ward"] to perish.
"God is not willing for any to perish".
Arminians believe this is universal, that God doesn't "want" anyone to perish. But most agree that some will. So God doesn't get what He wants, which to me is ridiculous. God is omnipotent. "Whatever God wants, God gets". If He doesn't get what He wants, then either (1) He isn't omnipotent after all, or (2) He didn't really "want" "will" "desire" it.
According to the Calvinist view, the scope of "not willing for any to perish" is the "elect", the "beloved", and since God is God, and God is omnipotent, none of the elect WILL perish. God will save EVERY ONE of His sheep.